Ugandan media has devised ways of getting the most out of readers whenever results of national examinations are released. This year, the most innovative was possibly The New Vision newspaper of Jan. 24. Under the rather ambiguous heading; “Decade’s best performing O’level schools”, it compiled the performance of 1778 schools over 15 years from 2000 to 2015.
Perhaps unintentionally, the list fed directly into a raging debate on education perceptions, participation, and performance of members of different religious groups in Uganda.
Top on The New Vision list was Mt. St. Mary’s College Namagunga, a Catholic school. It was followed by Uganda Martyrs SSS Namugongo (Catholic), St.Mary’s SS, Kitende (Private, Catholic), St. Mary’s College, Kisubi, and St. Henry’s College Kitovu, all Catholic. Of the best top 10 schools, only King’s College Budo at No.8 and Ntare School at No.10 are Protestant. The only Muslim affiliated school on the list is Nabisunsa Girls School at No.9.
Of the top 50 schools, fewer than 10 are not religious affiliated schools. There are about five Catholic seminaries and schools with names like Immaculate Heart Girls, St Joseph of Nazareth HS, Seroma Christian HS, Bishop Cyprian Kihangire SS, Our Lady of Good Counsel, and Kawempe Muslim SS.
Religion clearly plays a big part in Uganda’s education system. But is it for good or bad?
According to the Ministry of Education and Sports statistical abstract, of the 2,695 schools surveyed in 2015 at secondary school level, 493 were Catholic founded schools (18.3%) followed by 481 Church of Uganda [Protestant] schools (17.8%); 126 Muslim-founded schools (4.7%) and 40 SDA-founded schools (1.5%).
Of the 18,889 primary schools surveyed in Uganda in 2015, a total of 5,351 (28.3%) schools were Protestant or Church of Uganda-founded followed by the Catholic with 4,678 schools (24.8%); while Muslim-founded and Seventh Day Adventist (SDA)-founded schools were 1,127 (6%) and 303 (1.6%) schools respectively.
At the post primary school level (business, technical, vocational and training plus primary teachers colleges), the ministry listed the ownership by religious sect of the institutions being; Catholic (20%), Church of Uganda (18%), Muslim-founded (2%) and SDA institutions (1%).
At the university level, the Ministry of Education as of Jan.23 listed up to 32 universities, with five public universities and 27 private universities. Of these 27, seven are Christian-leaning while two are Muslim-founded.
The figures match recent figures released by the US-based Pew Research Centre which sought to analyse and explain the source of different levels of accomplishment in education among the major religions of the world.