Uganda’s education system is making improvements, but more needs to be done.

According to recent World Bank data, Uganda achieved an 81% literacy rate (the percentage of the population aged 15 and above who are able to read and write) in 2022. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s literacy rate was estimated at 81 for the same year as well. This, compared to other countries in the East African Community (EAC) bloc, is a relatively great achievement. South Sudan is lagging behind the rest of the countries, with the literacy rate in 2018 only estimated at 35% and in Burundi and Rwanda at 76%, respectively. Tanzania and Kenya lead the bloc in terms of literacy, which, in 2022, was estimated at 82% and 83%, respectively.

Now, let us examine some recent data from USAID regarding education in Uganda to get a snapshot of what is really happening with the sector.

In 2014, the World Bank reported Uganda’s expenditure on education as 1.9% of the GDP. However, between 2020 and 2022, the government maintained a higher expenditure rate of 2.6%, probably due to the introduction of e-learning amid the COVID-19 emergency. Since the outbreak has been reduced, the government has maintained its educational commitments.

In 2014, the allocation for primary education, standing at 1.13%, remained below the regional average of 1.59%. Similarly, the allocation for secondary education in the same year, at 0.47%, lagged considerably behind the national average of 1.12% at that time.

According to World Bank data, the highest expenditure on education in Uganda’s history occurred in 1973, 1974, and 1985, with the sector receiving 3.4% of the GDP in each respective year. The current upward trend reflects improvement compared to some of the lowest points in the past, such as 1983 and 2010, when the country allocated only 1.7% of the GDP to the education sector (World Bank, 2023).

While acknowledging the efforts of the Government of Uganda, it is evident that more concerted action is required. Some African countries are doing very well in terms of education, with literacy rates reaching 92% in Namibia, for instance, or 91% in Libya. Government and other sector stakeholders, especially, need to increase resources for the sector, which addresses inequalities.

In the wise words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” The United Nations equally shared this vision after education was made the 4th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), established in 1945, is primarily responsible for education. There is, indeed, a very close relationship between education and economic growth. Education provides individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in the workforce and contribute to economic growth. As many analysts put it, education and economic development portray a symbiotic bond.

Echohearts Foundation Uganda is committed to this cause and aims to support education efforts, especially to provide education opportunities to underprivileged groups and communities in Uganda.

This short piece was written by Joel Odota for Echohearts Foundation Uganda.

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