Uganda uses a 7-6-3 formal education system, namely seven years of primary, six years of secondary(with four years or ordinary and two of advanced level secondary) schooling, plus three years of university/ tertiary education, though there are exceptions in some courses at tertiary level. The official age ranges for these education levels are 6-12years, 13-18years, and 19-24years respectively.
The Net Attendance Ratio (NAR) for primary level is the percentage of primary- school- age population (age 6-12) that is attending primary school. The primary school NAR in Uganda is currently at 82 per cent. In urban areas, 88 per cent of primary school going age children is attending primary school as compared to 81 per cent in rural areas. There is virtually very little difference in the primary school net attendance ratio by sex; the NAR is 81 per cent for females and 82 per cent for males. It also important to know that the NAR is lowest among primary school age children in the poorest house holds (72 per cent), and increases with wealth to 89 per cent in the wealthiest house holds.
The concept of the NAR at the secondary school level is similar to that of the primary level, being the percentage of the secondary school- age- population (13-18 years) that is currently attending secondary school. Over all, only 16 per cent of secondary school age children are attending secondary school. The official secondary school NARs for both males and female are the same at 16 per cent. In 2007, the Government of Uganda introduced a programme called the Universal Secondary Education (USE) to promote a nation wide increase in secondary school enrolment.
The secondary school net attendance ratio also rises with house hold wealth from about 3 per cent in the lowest wealth quintile to 38 per cent in the wealthiest quintile. These statistics suggest that poverty and factors related to poverty play an important role in whether children can get access to formal education or not.
Despite the existence of the UPE programme, about three in ten girls and boys aged 6-9 have never attended school. Other studies in Uganda, including the 2005- 2006 Uganda National Household Survey (Uganda Bureau Of Statistics, 2006), show that this may be attributed to hindrances like long distances to the nearest school, other education costs to be met by parents, such as school uniforms and scholastic materials, and parents who consider their children to be too young to start school.
The likelihood of never having attended school increases dramatically as wealth decreases. Among females, 38 per cent from the poorest house holds have never attended school while just 8 per cent of females from the wealthiest households have never attended school. Differences by wealth are also large among males; 21 per cent of males from the poorest households have no schooling, as compared with only 6 per cent from the wealthiest households
The importance of education can not be ignored as it affects nearly all aspects of life, including individual demographic and health behaviour. Studies have shown that educational level is strongly associated with contraceptive use, fertility, and the general health status, morbidity, and mortality of children. Many crime related studies, including the Uganda Police Crime Report 2007 also indicate an over all inverse relationship between education and crime among juvenile offenders. Many juveniles were also found to be highly targeted victims of crime.
It is against this background that the Africa Child Health and Education Fund (ACHEF) has chosen to make education one of its pivotal points of operation in order to make a lasting contribution to the over all development of the Ugandan society.