Education and Peacebuilding in Uganda

Simone Datzberger, Alan McCully, Alan Smith

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Executive summaryIn assessing the role of education in Uganda’s peacebuilding process, this study elaborates on three distinct yet interrelated research areas (RA). These are: the integration of education into the country’s peacebuilding process (RA 1); the role of teachers in peacebuilding (RA 2); and the role of formal and non-formal education programmes focusing on youth (RA 3). It has to be emphasised that throughout the report we deliberately distinguish between explicit and implicit forms of peacebuilding through education. The former refers to activities such as peace education, peacebuilding trainings for teachers, peace huts, clubs or programmes and initiatives purposely put in place for a conflict-affected society to come to terms with the legacies of a conflict. The latter, on the other hand, refers to activities and programmes that may not be intentionally designed to build peace but indirectly impact processes of social transformation and change, necessary for sustainable peace and development. In this context it is important to note that Uganda is no longer an immediate post-conflict state but is still ranked number 23 among the world’s most fragile states in 2015 (Fragile State Index 2015, Fund for Peace). As further highlighted in Section 1 of this report, several underlying causes of conflict at national and regional level continue to persist. In other words, the predominant focus on development within the education sector implies that the peacebuilding dimension of social and conflict transformation is not always given sufficient priority. At the same time development efforts related to national peacebuilding are also largely confined to the north of the country. Even though Uganda has made significant strides from the mid-1990s onwards to increase access to education (see Section 2 pp. 37 – 38), the political-economy of the country may often undermine efforts to promote nationwide equality, social cohesion and reconciliation through education. Against this backdrop, the core findings of this report include: First, as in many other conflict-affected countries, education in Uganda was initially seen as an essential ingredient for economic and social development. Only recently have policies been drafted to address the integration of peacebuilding into the education sector even to some extent. To give a few examples, the Ministerial Statement (2012-13) acknowledges the need for clearer dissemination of policies related to disadvantaged and conflict-affected areas. At the same time the MoESTS (Ministry of Education Science Technology and Sports) created a careers guidance and counselling department with a mandate that includes the provision of counselling services in schools as well as the training of teachers to handle issues of conflict. In addition, Uganda’s school curriculum incorporates themes on conflict and peace. More recently, the UNICEF PBEA programme also played a serious role in integrating aspects of peacebuilding into future education sector policies. These positive achievements notwithstanding, the role of education in peacebuilding continues to be challenged by slow and weak policy implementation in areas such as: teacher training and capacities, infrastructure, socio-psychological support for both teachers and students, and education and livelihood generation for youth. In addition, ineffective decentralization processes and the emergence of low versus high quality schools (or privatisation), as well as corruption, challenge equality and social cohesion within and through education. Second, the current national curriculum incorporates aspects of peacebuilding to some extent. Great emphasis is placed on inter-personal relationships, attitudes of peace at the individual level, or within school and community environments. Peacebuilding is approached and used as a pedagogical tool towards conflict prevention but not as a means to coming to terms with a conflict-shattered past. The history, as well as past and present causes of conflict in various regions remain by and large unaddressed. This does not come as a surprise in the view of Uganda’s highly politicised reconciliation process and a general fear of generating new tensions (also through education). Interviews with experts and organisations working on reconciliation voiced frustrations about the lack of a reconciliation process that ideally embraces the national, regional and communal levels. The implicit as well as explicit role education can and should play in this, still needs to be further discussed and debated among educationalists, practitioners and policy-shapers advocating for a thorough integration of peacebuilding into the education sector. In this, the drafts of the proposed CURASSE secondary curriculum offers promise.Third, conflicts at regional level (see Table 4, pp xx-xx) led to the creation of non-formal education programmes and initiatives. These programmes are usually put in place to enable children, youth and adults to learn and acquire knowledge in circumstances and environments, which hinder equal access to formal education institutions. In many instances, such regional circumstances are fortified through conflict and therefore further weaken formal educational infrastructures. The section on equality (in particular pages xx–xx) discusses at length the peacebuilding potential but also challenges of and for non-formal education programming in Uganda. Fourth, the section on “low versus high standard schools” (pp. xx– xx) points to the rise of private schools potentially widening the gap in access to quality education in Uganda. Questions on the role of the state in overseeing and monitoring private education institutions can no longer be avoided. In particular with regards to education provided by international and local CSOs, interviewees complained about a lack of alignment and proper coordination. This frequently causes duplication of work (in particular in conflict-affected areas, such as the Acholi region), or uneven support among districts and regions, thereby having an impact on access to and quality of education in a specific district. While this does not pose an immediate threat to the peace process of the country, unequal access to quality education hampers processes of social transformation and sustainable peacebuilding and development, and may generate grievances in the longer term. Fifth, the section on teacher education acknowledges that the MoESTS (Ministry of Education Science, Technology and Sports) in Uganda, influenced by international agencies, now recognises that teachers have a key role in fostering peace but maximising this potential is constrained by the resource shortages, structural inefficiencies and lack of coordination between stakeholders that characterise other aspects of the education system. Existing policies relating to the recruitment and retention of teachers raise the possibility of a teaching force which offers diversity across regions but, currently, disparities in working conditions discourage teacher mobility. Recent curriculum reforms have provided a platform for schools to engage in peacebuilding but, to date, teacher training, both initial and in-service, lags behind in providing the pedagogy to realise this in classrooms. Recent PBEA initiated interventions with the primary teaching colleges (PTCs) have established the importance of changing institutional ethos towards more open and respectful relationships as a pre-requisite for peacebuilding and staff and students are responding positively to this idea. However, to date most teacher educators, especially outside conflict affected areas, perceive of peace education at the level of interpersonal relations and the connection has yet to be made to wider national peacebuilding which addresses intergroup, ethnic and regional difference. Sixth, educational infrastructures for youth have improved since the last election in 2011. However, these efforts did not necessarily increase the political and economic agency of youth. Among others, section 4 of the report illustrates how structural barriers and indirect forms of violence not only hamper youth agency but also challenge the sustainability and equal redistribution of education and livelihood initiatives. Besides, a large segment of youth lack representation in decision-making processes concerning educational programming. In summary, the report arrives at the following policy implications for each research area: Summary of Findings and Policy ImplicationsRA-1 Policy: • Significant strides in addressing inequalities in Uganda’s educational sector since 1997 did not translate into anticipated improvement of the quality and infrastructure for education thereby hampering processes of social transformation.• “Low” and “high” standard education thwarts equal opportunity within and beyond education among disadvantaged societal segments and reproduces indirect/structural forms of violence. • The decentralization process has had a positive impact with regards to representation of local district officials in the education sector. Yet, service delivery, autonomy and flexibility to implement context-specific educational services remain weak. • Uganda is not short in supply of transformative policies in the education sector, but weak implementation affects sustainable peacebuilding and long-term development processes. • The way in which peacebuilding is currently approached in the curricula and schools, focuses mainly on conflict prevention as opposed to coming to terms with past conflicts. • Non-formal education programmes at the regional level, address societal transformation and peacebuilding more explicitly than nationwide formal education initiatives. RA-2 Teacher: • Resource challenges in Uganda hinder the development of innovative and creative teachers capable of becoming agents of peacebuilding• Education for peacebuilding is inadequately conceptualised and coordinated leading to piecemeal interpretations amongst stakeholders which lack clarity• Structurally, teacher education provision perpetuates the perception that conflict affected areas are less favourably treated• The hierarchical nature of the teaching profession reinforces inequalities. The equating of higher qualifications and remuneration with teaching older pupils acts against teachers establishing themselves as catalysts for change in primary schools• Currently there is the potential to recognise diversity through the national recruitment policy for teacher education and there are attempts to recognise and celebrate this in teacher training institutions – but this could be more systematically pursued.• Curriculum reform also indicates progress in the recognition of diversity. The primary and secondary curricula show some awareness of local (ethical) national and east African identities.• Representation (of class, gender and region) remains a challenge at all levels of education with MoESTS and the international community remaining dominant in decision-making for teacher education and curriculum. RA-3 Youth: • Even though educational infrastructures for and of youth have improved over the past two decades these efforts have not increased the economic and political agency of youth at large. • Structural barriers and indirect forms of violence not only hamper youth agency, but also challenge the sustainability and equal redistribution of education and livelihood initiatives. • Youth lack political representation in the planning and decision-making processes targeting education programmes, skills training and livelihood initiatives. • There is an underlying notion within the rhetoric of policies and frameworks to empower youth through education economically, but not necessarily politically. • Micro-initiatives show greater potential to act as an implicit vehicle for conflict-resolution or reconciliation among youth than macro education initiatives at the national level.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages122
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2015



  • Peqacebuilding Education Policy Teachers Teacher Education Youth

Cite this

Datzberger, S., McCully, A., & Smith, A. (2015). Education and Peacebuilding in Uganda.