Are our children learning? Uwezo learning assessment in refugee contexts in Uganda

The Government's Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities (MoES 2018) is a response to the great challenge of providing more equitable life chances to refugee children in Uganda. Uwezo at Twaweza in Uganda in partnership with the UK Department for International Development intends to play its part by including refugee children in its national assessments of learning and by giving due attention to their interests.

The Uwezo Assessments of children's literacy and numeracy in East Africa have well established procedures, but these have been designed for settled, non-refugee populations. This pilot study therefore applies, and where necessary adapts, these procedures to the context of refugee settlements.

Facts about learning in refugee contexts in Uganda

Levels of learning are poor across refugee and non-refugee contexts, although in some cases, refugee communities perform better than the host communities.

  • In the lower grades (P3), the learning outcomes are equally low for refugee and non-refugee children (more than 90% are unable to read, comprehend, and divide).
  • Apart from Isingiro district where refugee children performed better in literacy than in numeracy by 3 percentage points, overall, refugee and non-refugee children performed better in numeracy than in English literacy by almost 20 percentage points.
  • In both refugee and non-refugee households children from female-headed households tended to have higher competencies than their counterparts in male-headed households
  • There are age-related diferences in learning outcomes. Within the age group of 9-13 years old, non-refugee children were almost twice more likely to be able to read, comprehend and divide than their refugee counterparts.
  • There are gender di_erences in learning outcomes among refugee and non-refugee children, mostly in favour of boys. However, in some districts such as Adjumani and Isingiro girls are further behind boys outside settlements than within. In Isingiro, girls are ahead of boys by 10 percentage points within refugee settlements and are behind boys by 7 percentage points outside refugee settlements.
  • Somali children are more likely to have basic literacy and numeracy skills than refugees from other countries of origin.

Refugee households have better services than their Ugandan counterparts, although in some cases, they face challenging home conditions

  • Refugees (35%) are more likely to use piped water than their non-refugee counterparts (13%)
  • More refugees use clean and sustainable sources of energy: solar energy is the main source of lighing
  • Refugees are more likely to have two meals or less per day compared to non-refugees

School conditions and services are generally dire in refugee contexts, save in a few instances

  • Schools in refugee settlements have almost double the pupil-teacher ratio
  • The pupil to English textbook ratio is within refugee settlements and outside the settlements.
  • More schools outside refugee settlements had supplementary learning materials such as charts and other visual aids than schools within refugee settlements
  • There were more children attending pre-school in refugee settlements than outside refugee settlements.
  • Teacher attendance is better in schools within refugee settlements than in schools outside refugee settlements.

Overall, the pilot study enabled the production of comparative data on learning outcomes and learning conditions in refugee settlements and host communities. The response to our first research question is that, while there are certain notable differences between refugees and their counterparts in the host communities in terms of facilities, learning outcomes are similar. For example, while on average, 51 children shared one textbook in schools in refugee settlements; two pupils shared a book in the host community.

On the other hand, there was a larger proportion of schools in refugee settlements with a school feeding programme (32%) than outside refugee settlements (26%), compensating slightly for the poorer levels of nutrition in refugee households.

Read the full report here. 


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