In Uganda, where do all the students go?

24 July 2018


A daily attendance board at a school in Kisoro, Uganda.

As a recent IIEP trainee, Dorothy Ssekimipi investigated the struggles students face in transitioning to lower secondary school and the huge disparities between primary and secondary school completion.

Dorothy Ssekimipi is on a mission to try and figure out what happens to scores of children in Uganda at the last level of lower secondary education. Only 67 percent of students make the transition from primary to secondary school and 36% complete lower secondary,  according to 2017 Ministry data.

“Why is not 100%? Are they dropping out, are they going into non-formal education?” she asks, adding that universal quality secondary education is now a high priority for Uganda and a target of Sustainable Development Goal four (SDG 4) for education.

She says one of the main challenges of accessing secondary education is location. “If the school is too far, a student will stop going. Especially for girls, it’s too dangerous for them.” Some students, especially those who live in rural areas, walk over five kilometres. 

Ssekimipi is a Senior Economist in the department of Projects and Planning at the Ministry of Education and Sports in Uganda. Part of her responsibilities include coordinating the SWAP programme (sector-wide approach process) to help ensure that the Ministry works with a variety of Education Development Partners spanning civil society, faith-based organizations, and others.

For half of 2018, Ssekimipi was far from her normal work environment. In fact, she was 9,600 kilometers away as a trainee - and recipient of a full fellowship for a female educational planner - in IIEP’s Advanced Training Programme in Paris, France. During this time, she honed a variety of skills in planning and leadership, and focused on her research project that relates to a major challenge facing Uganda’s education system today: an analysis of the factors affecting internal efficiency of lower-secondary school.

“There is massive enrolment in primary school but they are not accommodated at the next level so we have to focus there,” she says in an interview after the commencement ceremony on 28 June 2018. “We have to establish more public schools. There are not enough schools.”

Ssekimipi will soon head back to Kampala where she will finish her research project on lower secondary education. The educational planning process in Uganda has also started for this year. The theme for the 2018 education sector review workshop, which she will be contributing to, is ‘strengthening excellence in education service delivery through the provision of quality education for socioeconomic transformation at all levels.’

Speaking on behalf of the whole cohort of graduates of the 52nd ATP session, Ssekimipi says, “We have now become professional educational planners. The training has given us deeper knowledge in all planning aspects. We have covered all aspects of educational planning and now we really have to become champions of implementing the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) targets at national levels.”

Her new knowledge and skills development also built on concepts and leadership building that she received as a participant of the 2017 IIEP Summer School for female planners. These two experiences combined have given her more confidence to contribute more actively to the development of Uganda’s education system.

“We have to keep our feet on the pedals,” she says speaking about all the work ahead, both in terms of advancing quality education and female empowerment in the workplace. “We have to persist.”

Ssekimipi also expressed her sincere thanks to the whole of the IIEP team for the opportunity granted to her to enrol in the 2017-2018 ATP training session. She says it has shaped her to become a professional planner. We look forward to seeing more of what Ssekimipi accomplishes in the future! Are you interested in training at IIEP? Please click here for more information.