Focus on Policy
Universal Primary Education in Uganda

Alex Ndeezi (MP)

Uganda's Universal Primary Education (UPE), begun in 1996, is the brain child of President Yoweri Museveni. A former lecturer at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, Museveni is one of Africa's pragmatic leaders who believes in the transformation and modernisation of society through the elimination of illiteracy and the provision of Education For All - irrespective of one's gender, disability or any other categorisation.

In practice, the UPE programme is not universal, but has a realistic tendency towards universality. Before implementation, the policy was extensively discussed at various fora, including educational institutions, in the cabinet and at parliamentary level. Under this programme, the government commits itself to providing primary education for a maximum of 4 children per family. In order to comply with Uganda's constitutional requirements on affirmative action in favour of marginalised groups, 2 of the 4 must be girls, if a family has children of both sexes. In addition, if a family has a child with disability, he or she must be granted the highest priority in enrolment under this programme.

The government pays the school fees for the children. It also provides grants to be spent on instructional materials, co-curricular activities like sport, and the management and maintenance of utilities like water and electricity.

By the end of September 1999 six and a half million children aged 6-15 had enrolled for primary school education - one third of Uganda's total population. Total enrolment rates for all children have tripled since 1996 and the enrolment of children with disabilities, almost half of whom are female, has quadrupled.



The Way forward

Last but not least, even though UPE has its own weaknesses it has been hailed world-wide as a wonderful programme, a reflection of political commitment to education for all, and a role model of how the poorest countries of the world, such as Uganda, can eliminate widespread illiteracy and develop their human resources by provision of affordable education.

Alex Ndeezi is Uganda's first Deaf Member of Parliament. He is also the chairperson of the Uganda National Association of the Deaf. He can be contacted at: PO Box 7339, Kampala, Uganda. Tel: +256 (0)41 27 25 63

Title: Focus on Policy: Universal Primary Education in Uganda
Author: Ndeezi, A
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2000
Published in: Enabling Education 4