Uganda: promoting and protecting secondary education

12 July 2020

JRS Uganda has supported the Pagirinya Secondary School since its opening in 2016. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

The promotion and protection of education have always been a milestone of JRS’s work. The current crisis of COVID-19 poses new and foreseeable challenges to ensuring our continued accompaniment of refugees in their education in a responsible and secure way. However, the tireless commitment of our colleagues in Uganda and our partners in Europe helps to make this possible.

JRS reinstated operations in Adjumani, Northern Uganda, at the border to South Sudan in 2016 with the aim to fill the huge gaps in Secondary Education. After nearly four years, JRS continues to evaluate its approach and the best way to support secondary schools, especially in this unprecedented moment of COVID-19.

JRS Uganda has supported the Pagirinya Secondary School since its opening in 2016. As of 2019, 931 students were enrolled in the school. The school still does not hold a license from the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), which would allow its students to sit for their exams there. Although the students can take their exams in other registered schools, there is an urgent need to support Pagirinya in becoming registered with MoES – a timely and expensive process – as it is the second largest school in the district.

Our team also assisted with the opening of the Nyumanzi Secondary School in 2018, which to date has 296 students and serves as the only secondary school in the settlement. Due to a lack of space, some of the classes have been taught outside under the trees.

JRS Uganda primarily supports community-based secondary schools in Adjumani. Parents and teachers around Pagirinya settlement recognised a need to set up a secondary school in their community. Both the host and refugee communities initiated and continue to manage the schools.

JRS supports these facilities but they lack many things, such as: infrastructure, payments of teacher salaries, scholastic materials, textbooks, laboratory equipment, to name only a few. The large number of refugees has put a lot of pressure on the delivery of education services. The schools are overwhelmed and cannot absorb the high number of children within the available structures. For instance, some of the education quality indicator records show: 154:1 pupil to classroom ratio; 84:1 pupil to teacher ratio; and 8:1 pupil to textbook ratio.

In order to overcome these challenges, JRS is supporting the construction of new community schools in Adjumani. The construction has fortunately continued since the beginning of the lockdown in Uganda caused by COVID-19.

Four-classroom block construction at the Nyumanzi Secondary School
Four-classroom block construction at the Nyumanzi Secondary School.

Thanks to generous partners from Spain and Ireland, JRS is currently able to construct two infrastructure projects: one two-classroom block, one library and one administrative block at the Pagirinya Secondary School, and one four-classroom block including an office and store at the Nyumanzi Secondary School.

The construction work is progressing well. JRS’s Site Engineer, Philip Mulokwa, testifies to the work done: ”The major success so far has been the contractors’ ability to progress with work amidst tough restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown” by following all the security procedures.

We are very grateful for the continuing support to develop the schools, their capacities, and the learning environment for the students, our future generation.