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Kampala education and international schools guide

Kampala is one of the fastest developing cities in Africa and to cater to for the demand, several new international schools have opened since the beginning of this century.

Due to the vast quantities of oil and gas hidden below the staggeringly beautiful landscape of Uganda, Kampala has left the war-torn city of the 1980’s well behind and is now a happy place to be an expat, offering some of the most spectacular wild life in Africa, as well as the modern essentials of international schools and shopping malls.

It may have changed enormously over the last 30 years but this country is still attached to the memories of ‘Empire’ as it remained a British protectorate until 1962. Even now, you drive on the left-hand side, learn English in school and, probably, drink tea. However, this is Africa and you also have to navigate the obstacles of endless potholes and manhole covers on the roads (not long ago, the daughter of a famous BBC journalist was swallowed up by one and had to be rescued with a rope) and be content to live largely on tropical fruit.

When you move abroad, as a family (whatever your point of departure), the priorities have to be around where to live and how to make sure that your children get the best education on offer. In Kampala, the housing options for expat families (given that the breadwinner is pulling down a decent salary) tend to be found in two areas.

The most upmarket, in social and economic terms, is Muyenga (known as Tank Hill locally), which is often the choice of diplomats and top of the tree businessmen. The most obvious alternative is Kololo, with its somewhat flash villas and a golf club. An important extra consideration is the distance from Kabira Country Club, which is the hub of expatriate social life. Other possibilities are Mbuya with its stunning views and Nagaru which, again, has the advantage of being within easy reach of the Country Club.

International schools

In almost all cases, international schools mean getting in the car, the exception being Acacia International School which is just around the corner if you live in Muyenga. However, most of the schools are less than 30 minutes away from the areas that expats usually tend to choose, unless, of course, the truly appalling traffic has one of its no-go days. The furthest away (wherever you live) is probably the International School of Uganda (ISU) on the road to Entebbe, which can take anything from half to three quarters of an hour to reach.

Except for International Stream of the Aga Khan High School, GEMS Cambridge International and Rainbow International School (the two latter are Accredited Members of the Council of British International Schools, COBIS) all the schools that we have considered are independently accredited by either the Council of International Schools (CIS) (Ambrosoli, Galaxy International School, Kampala International School) or the independent American agency the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA) (Heritage International School). One school (International School of Uganda) is accredited by both.

As a hangover from its colonial past, it is unsurprising that nearly half of the international schools teach the A Level syllabus after IGCSEs and that the percentage of schools offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma is relatively low compared to some global cities. Of the all-through schools only one, International School of Uganda, does not offer IGCSEs, preferring to teach the complete (barring the Careers option) International Baccalaureate Programme.

Ambrosoli International School, named after a charismatic Italian priest (Uganda’s population is nearly 40 per cent Catholic) teaches the National Curriculum for England up to the age of 11 and the remaining all-through schools also follow an adapted British curriculum leading up to IGCSEs. The odd man out is Acacia International School which teaches an American curriculum up to age 14.

For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article Best schools in Kampala considered by expats.

State Schools

As an expat, it is most unlikely that you would consider sending your children to a state school in Uganda as the structure, the quality of teaching and the teacher: student ratio, as well as the cultural differences, would make it difficult for an expat child to either thrive or transfer to schools in other countries. Girls are still discriminated against and only around half the students are literate at the end of primary school. Although UNICEF is targeting the worst performing districts with the aim of improving literacy to 75 per cent by the end of grade 6, this is still not an environment that comes anywhere near the exacting standards of those used to international-style education.

And finally…

The choice used to be pretty limited but there are now several schools that live up to international expectations and are recognised by independent international bodies. It used to be the norm to send your children to boarding school back home but now you have the option of keeping your family together by looking at the educational opportunities available in Uganda.

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