6 December 2023 - Uganda


Ivan, Andre and Gerald take turn reading a book in Uganda.

Ivan, Andre and Gerald take turn reading a book in Uganda. Save the Children International.

The situation in Uganda

As of June 2023, Uganda was hosting over 1.5 million refugees and asylum seekers. The population of concern includes mainly people from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Burundi, among others. Refugee Response partners in Uganda play a crucial role in supporting provision of protection services, livelihood assistance, education and resilience solutions to the persons of concern.

Uganda, an early signatory to the Comprehensive Response Refugee Framework (CRRF), has long been lauded by the international community for its progressive refugee policy. Its self-reliance approach permits refugees to work and move freely, allocates plots of land for refugees to cultivate within settlements, and gives refugees equal access to services such as health and education. The country’s generosity towards refugees has earned it a reputation as a model for refugee hosting countries around the world.

However, in 2023, partners face a significant challenge due to underfunding of the refugee support interventions, which is exacerbated by a growing influx of new arrivals. As of November 2023, Uganda received 88,121 new arrivals. Of these, 22,556 individuals arrived from South Sudan, while 22,328 individuals are from DRC. Over 80 % of the new arrivals are women and children.  

Joanita and Safari's Stories

Joanita, 16, was born to Congolese parents who sought refuge in Uganda over two decades ago due to political instability and conflict in their home country. Joanita was born and raised in Nakivale Refugee Settlement, and Uganda is now her second home.

Despite the many challenges most refugee families face on a daily basis, including significant financial barriers to education, Joanita’s parents work hard to make sure she goes to school. They have taught her the transformative power of education and she recently completed her primary education.

“Most children drop out of school because their parents are not engaged in income generating activities to keep them in school. We need support in form of more classroom blocks and scholastic materials to keep children interested in school especially the girls. Those who drop out end up marrying young.” says Joanita. 

However, even if refugee children are able to enroll in school many still face challenges attending and achieving basic foundational skills. Domestic chores, engagement in income generating activities, hunger and, exposure to child marriage or early pregnancy, incidences of which have increased since food assistance was reduced for the majority of refugees, prevent children from attending school regularly.

School environments are not conducive to achievement of learning outcomes. Overcrowded classrooms, overwhelmed teachers, with short contracts, who need to support to teach learners with varied needs and a lack of teaching and learning materials mean that children are not achieving foundational literacy and numeracy skills.

Many refugee children have not been taught in English before, which is the language of instruction, and experience challenges understanding lesson content as a result.

“We sometimes hear strange sounds while in class because we struggle to understand the language the teachers use to teach us. I wish we were taught by teachers who understand our local language. I want to study hard and become a tailor in future.” says 9-year-old Safari. 

Save the Children's Impact

Save the Children in Uganda is making sure that thousands of children like Joanita and Safari are able to attend school regularly and achieve good learning outcomes by providing robust support to schools, communities and government, and engaging children in activities that support their learning, well-being and develop their resilience.

Save the Children’s impact is evident in supplementing government efforts to support the education of refugee and host community children.

All of Save the Children’s education programming in the refugee response is aligned to the Government of Uganda’s Education Response Plan 2 for Refugees and Host Communities, and implemented in collaboration with numerous partners and the Government. In 2022 Save the Children’s programming reached 155,402 children (77,296 girls, 78,106 boys) across the country out of which 21,462 children (105,28 girls, 10,934 boys) were from refugee hosting districts.

However, the needs continue to be significant. Families need support to ensure that their children are able to enroll in Early Childhood Education, a service which remains the responsibility of parents and communities, and transition to Primary School. Children enrolled in school don’t have the materials they need to learn, such as books, pens and adequate textbooks. Teachers need continuous professional development to ensure that they are able to integrate remedial learning into day to day teaching and learning.

Anna, 12, learning at home in Uganda.

Anna, 12, learning at her home in Uganda. Save the Children.

Our GRF pledge

Save the Children is one of leading Education in Emergencies actors in the refugee response, delivering high quality and impactful programming that increases access to education and improves children’s learning outcomes by ensuring quality teaching by well-trained and supported teachers, across early childhood education, primary and secondary, including accelerated education programming.

The Government of Uganda is a co-convener at the Global Refugee Forum and has over the last year held a series of roundtable discussions to generate the pledges it will make at the GRF. The government pledges that relate to education are:

  • To continue managing and integrating the infrastructure and services specifically in health, education and water aligned with the government requirements in a phased approach. This will call for alignment of partner investments within the National Development Plan and District Development plans
  • Commits to put in place a transitional strategy and guidelines to facilitate coordinated transition planning and management.

To support the Government of Uganda, Save the Children pledges to continue to support the inclusion of refugees in Uganda’s national education system, aligning programming to the Uganda Education Response Plan II for Refugees and Host Communities, and through our leadership of the Uganda Education Consortium, prioritizing approaches that ensure transition of learners to the formal education system, including Language Bridging and Accelerated Education.

We will advocate for progressive transition of service delivery, including coding of schools and registration of learners in the Education Management information system (EMIS).

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