Uganda: quality secondary education through public-private partnerships

We have enrolled over 400 students out of the 7,600 we aim for in 2016

The challenge

A secondary education transforms children's life chances, especially for girls. Every extra year of secondary school  adds 15% to 25% to a girl's future wage. Girls with a secondary education are three times less likely to contract  HIV and their future children are more than twice as likely to survive beyond the age of five. Yet in the global drive to meet the Millennium Development Goals' primary education targets, secondary education has been overlooked and underfunded. In Uganda, 72% of secondary school-aged children are not in school. The majority of Uganda's young people leave primary school for the job market but struggle to secure work because they do not have the necessary basic knowledge or skills.

Our response

With our partner PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools), we will launch and run a network of state-funded secondary schools in rural Uganda over the next five years. We are working within the Ugandan Government's pioneering policy for public-private partnerships in education, which allows private organisations to run state-funded secondary schools. By focussing on core academic subjects and vocational skills, we plan to equip our students to earn a good living. Our ultimate aim is to provide a scalable model for high quality, cost-efficient, secondary education.

Our approach

Ark believes every child, no matter their background, can fulfil their potential if they are offered high-quality teaching. Working with PEAS and in close collaboration with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports, our approach centres on:

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS  Using philanthropic investment, we are building, setting up and operating schools, with the government paying pupils' tuition fees.

A FOCUS ON EQUITY  Open to all, the schools are in rural areas where access to education and girls' enrolment are currently very low.

FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY  Government subsidy and income generating activities ensure our schools are financially sustainable within two years of opening.

MEASUREMENT AND EVIDENCE  We regularly collect and monitor data to improve school and pupils' performance. We have commissioned an external five-year evaluation to collect evidence on successful aspects of the programme and areas for improvement.

LEARNING FOR LIFE Pupils learn eight core subjects and two vocational subjects to prepare them for life beyond school.  

Our impact

Over 400 pupils enrolled at our first two schools

The Ugandan Minister of Education and Sports, Jessica Alupo, opened our first two secondary schools in March 2012, where over 400 pupils are now enrolled. One in three of our students are the only children in their family to go to school; their average reading age is nine years, compared to an average actual age of 16.


Creating a model for public-private partnerships in education

We secured government funding for pupils' fees immediately rather than having to wait the usual two year probation period. This will help to accelerate the Ark-PEAS schools' financial sustainability.


Looking ahead

We will open a further eight schools by the end of 2014. To address low levels of numeracy and literacy, we will train teachers to run intensive catch-up courses for all students, drawing on our UK expertise in accelerating the learning of students.

Our goal is to work with Uganda's Ministry of Education and Sports to support improvements across the education system, using proven, effective elements of our model in other secondary schools. We also aim to pilot another type of public-private partnership model, where we contract-manage new government-built schools.

By 2014, combining PEAS' local expertise with Ark's focus on measurement and quality, we hope to show that public-private partnerships can deliver academic achievement greater than the national average, at a lower cost to the government.


Mulumba's story

Mulumba was 19 when he enrolled this year in the Ark-PEAS school in Malongo. Abandoned by his mother when he was six months old, he never knew his father and was initially brought up by his grandmother. After she died, he lived on the streets for eight years."I slept under cars in the garage; I'd take rubbish from the flats and they'd give me food. But I decided I wanted a better life," he says.

His grandmother had sent him to the government secondary school. "But they didn't have enough materials and books for us to read. That's why I left and came to the Ark-PEAS school instead. All my friends did the same." To earn a living, he fishes on Lake Victoria at night, making time for school during the day.

"I want to study. There are so many people here who are not educated: they don't have jobs and don't have a good life - I don't want to be like that. If I could choose any job I liked, I would want to be an engineer."

Programme contact

Sabina Morley
International Education Manager
T: +44 20 3116 6316