I believe it was in 1997 that President Yoweri Museveni started a programme to bring free primary education for all. This means that government-run schools exist alongside private ones. Anyone can go to a government school but they tend to be for pupils who have no option, as the facilities are generally lacking, and the attendance of both pupils and teachers is worse than in private schools.
In comparison with the schools we are used to, both government and private schools suffer from overcrowded classes and a lack of resources. Corporal punishment is illegal in Uganda but still commonplace, something which Volunteer Uganda has a strict policy on, in order to ensure the schools adhere to the law.
In private schools a fee must be paid every three months. At one of the schools we coached in, I was dismayed to find a large number of children leaving as we were arriving on our first day. The headmaster explained to us that they had not paid their fees, so the policy there, as with most other private schools, is that one child from that family is sent home until the debt is settled.
Some private schools have lessons on Saturday mornings. At some, the child can board and stay in a dormitory. Often two children have to share one bed, so on occasions four children will share a bunk.
From the age of three one can attend nursery at private schools. At six you can start primary school but for any number of reasons, a child may even start as late as ten. There are seven years of primary education, but if a pupil doesn’t reach the required standard they have to repeat a year until they understand specific concepts, for example in P1 you may have to be able to count from 1-5 in Maths, and in English you need to be able to say your name and those of your parents, and where you come from. If you fail this, you must repeat the year.
Not everyone finishes primary education for various reasons, such as behaviour or family issues. You can be 20 years old and still in P6!
Once you have achieved the required standard at the end of P7, you can go to secondary school – but not everyone does. From S1 to S4 pupils study towards O levels, then they can stay for S5 and S6 to do A levels, or go to college and undertake other more vocational courses such as teacher training.
* Thanks to Gloria and JB for all the info!