Repositioning Gender Parity in Education: Assessing the participation of girls in secondary school education in Uganda

Repositioning Gender Parity in Education: Assessing the participation of girls in secondary school education in Uganda

Historical Background 

Secondary school education has a long history in Uganda. Mission schools were established in the 1890s, and in 1924 the government opened the first secondary school for Africans. However, by 1950, the government operated only three secondary schools; three others were privately funded, and 47 were operated by religious organizations. After independence in 1962, many villages, especially in the south, built schools, hired teachers, and appealed for, and received, government assistance to operate their own schools. Although over the years, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) has provided increased assistance to covering secondary school costs in an attempt to increase opportunities for participation, overall participation and particularly for girls is still inadequate, and varies in nature and degree from one region or community to another. Yet, educating girls is among the most important investments a country can make to promote long-term social and economic development. The participation of girls in secondary education is beneficial at the individual, family, community and national levels. Benefits include opportunities for a University education, improved health status of the children at the family level, increased employment opportunities, increased ability to engage in gainful livelihood interventions. 

         However, access and participation in secondary school education is still a challenge for many students in Uganda especially girls. There still exist significant variations between locations, within sub counties, across income groups as well as religions.  Such differences are clearly highlighted in the USAID-supported school mapping exercise that was conducted in 2005 referred to in the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (2007).  Most notably, girl’s completion rates are still very low in most third world countries. The transition rates from primary to secondary school has never gone beyond fifty percent and notes that although 80 percent of all pupils who sit exams pass, only fifty percent get places at secondary or technical schools.

           There have been previous studies focusing on establishing the link between   girl’s participation in secondary school education and related barriers.  For example Byamugisha (2007) researched on the factors influencing transition of students from primary to secondary school. Although the study points out very important factors that affect secondary school participation, the focus is placed on the financial cost of secondary school education and the limited number of schools as the main influences.

            This study leaves gaps for the proposed study to address, specifically the fact that the study was general and focused on both boys and girls, the factors considered in this study did not include the independent variables proposed in this study namely home backgrounds, proximity to a secondary school, religion and past schools. The proposed study intends to address the theoretical gaps. Baine’s (2006) work focuses on the link between poverty and girl’s participation in secondary school education. While the study found that girls school attendance and completion rates were very low compared to their male counterparts, the study focused on Uganda as a country. The proposed study seeks to bridge the gaps that still exist in the situational, geographical and theoretical contexts.

Conceptual perspective

Participation is defined by several scholars simply to mean equity in access; ensuring equal opportunities for all those who complete primary school level, eliminating existing barriers to enrollment into secondary schools and overall increase in the transition rate of girls from primary to secondary school. For example, not only considering the Primary Leaving Examination scores as a yard stick for secondary school enrollment.  In this study, “participation of girls in secondary school education” will consider current enrollment of girls in secondary schools.  A “factor” is any of the things that cause or influence a situation.  In this study, the factors to consider are home background, proximity to school, religion and past school. The factors affecting girl’s participation in secondary education in different contexts, depth and breadth and as noted by Bakkabulindi (2007) these include religion Lubega, (1997); home background ( Eremu 1999; Malinga 2004 July 19; Nsangi, 2004). 

           In Uganda, there still exist disparities between boys and girls access and participation in secondary school education. The reasons why are both social and economic: girls must often help earn the family’s livelihood; school calendars do not necessarily match up with local cycles of agrarian life; schools are located far from villages; and security issues threaten girls’ safety.  Girls of the poorest and most marginalized segments of the population – including orphans and other vulnerable children, girls from fishing villages, and children affected by HIV/AIDS – are most at risk. Girls from these groups are even less likely to participate in school, and the female dropout rate increases at a higher rate than males with each grade while those that do complete the cycle tend to score lower than their male counterparts.  The lower rates of completion and poorer performance of girls relative to boys is a result of a number of structural and attitudinal factors, which include traditional gender responsibilities, gender-stereotyped expectations and even gender-based violence.


The challenges of reconciling boy and girl child education in Africa are quite numerous. Firstly, the greatest challenges lies in the fact that most African societies place due regard to custom. But much of the indigenous custom does not favor the progress of the woman. Girls, in the traditional social systems, are not supposed to get formal education. In Lagoro Sub-county, Pader district of Uganda chiefs and elders have burred girls from attending school simply because they think girls should only be ripe for early marriage. This landmark reality is deeply constraining girl child education and there is need to scale up interventions in this area.

            Economic impoverishment and the fact that most children have to walk long distances to the schools where they study from have also accounted for the rapid low participation of girls in education. Consequently, the continued little access to education for girls will lead to stagnation in productive systems through the economies of most African governments. Women contribute the greatest share to GDP growth in most African economies. In Uganda, of the 55% contribution from the agricultural sector, Women contribute 75%. Hence, it would be more appealing if such women are educated in greater numbers so as to gainfully increase on productive prospects of countries. Governments as a strategy have encouraged Universalization of education so as to increase girl child opportunities but still they intake rate is low.

             Participation here means scaling up equal opportunities for both boys and girls and trying to educate the community of the need to encourage girl child education. If nations encourage equal education then the countries will see fundamental economic landmarks because opportunities improve capacity. In this global village, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to fight marginalization and call for equal opportunities for all gender groups so as to civilize society. There is nothing so real than providing educational opportunities to the masses.

List of references

Bakkabulindi (2007), Factors affecting access to high education, the case of Kisubi Brothers Center of Uganda Martyrs University

Albert Byamugisha (2007) Quality Imperative, Uganda Launches Secondary school Education for All, Issue II

Doris Kakuru (2003) Gender Sensitive Educational Policy and Practice, Uganda Case Study prepared for the International Bureau of Education, Makerere University Department of Sociology

Euzobia Baine (2006), Gender and Teacher Education in Uganda: The Missing ‘Building Block’ in reducing gender disparities in education– A Research Colloquium Education Development in the Common Wealth

Ministry of Education and Sports and Sports (2006), 13th Annual Sector Review Report

Uganda Debt Network (June 2007)Is Uganda able to fund Universal Secondary Education. Policy review newsletter, volume 7, issue 6.

The Republic of Government of Uganda (1992) The Uganda White Paper for integration and governance, Kampala

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2002), Oxford University Press

Uganda Bureau of Statistics (2007),Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (2006)




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *