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Citizenship Education in Uganda

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Citizenship Education in Uganda

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The author holds the view that civic education in Uganda has not been accorded the importance it deserves in building civic competence of the population and entrenching the democratic culture. The focus has mainly been on voter education. It is therefore essential to promote civic education so as to raise public awareness and build a civically competent citizenry actively involved in the country’s development agenda.

Uganda (© bpb)

1. Background Information: Brief History of Citizenship Education

In Uganda, citizenship education is referred to as civic education. In this country profile, both terms mean the same thing.

The history of civic education in Uganda dates back to colonial times. In 1958, there was an attempt to implement civic education when the colonial government tried to include more Africans in the Legislative Council (LEGCO). However, this was fundamentally flawed that it was abandoned before it could take off. The candidates and agents in the 1958 elections did not bother to comprehend the essence and relevance of civic education. In the subsequent elections of 1961, 1962, 1980, and 1989 there was no meaningful civic education until 1993 when the Constituent Assembly elections were organized. [1]

However, there has been a deliberate attempt to teach civic education at primary school level of education. Civic education is part of social studies, a subject examined at primary school level, which gives way to political education, which is examined at Ordinary Level (O-Level). With the coming into power of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) in 1986, several reforms have been introduced to ensure people’s participation in socio-political activities. Remarkable among them was the popular democracy through the Resistance Councils (RCs) now Local Councils (LCs). Although this political reform was driven by some politicisation of the people, its scope was limited to election of representatives of the National Resistance Council (NRC).

Another reform was the introduction of political education courses, popularly known as ‘Mchaka Mchaka’, cadre training by the NRM Government. This was subsequently followed by the enactment of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda1995. [1] The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda,1995, hereinafter referred to as Constitution, provides the premise upon which all citizens are enjoined to participate in matters of governance. Article 38 (1) of the Constitution provides that, ‘Every Ugandan citizen has the right to participate in the affairs of government, individually or through his or her representatives in accordance with law.’ (3) Article 38 (2) further stipulates that, ‘Every Ugandan has a right to participate in peaceful activities to influence the policies of government through civic organisations.’ [3]

These rights are elementary for civic education because it enhances the people’s competence and opportunity to participate meaningfully and responsibly in self-governance. This is enunciated under article [1] of the Constitution, that all power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution. ‘This presupposes a system of governance in which power rests with the people, a democracy. In a democracy, people elect their leadership and their representatives, debate and decide on important issues affecting their people such as making laws. Therefore, when the people’s representatives make decisions, it is assumed that they are expressing the people’s will. But in order to benefit from this process, people must participate efficiently, effectively and adequately, which calls for civic education. [1]

2. Definition of Citizenship Education

Civic education has been broadly defined as the provision of information and learning experiences to equip and empower citizens to participate in democratic processes. [25] The Civic Education Coalition in Uganda (CECU), a coalition of state agencies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), which are engaged in civic education [4] reiterates this. Civic education is the process of creating awareness, provision of information, learning experiences to equip and empower citizens to participate positively in the democratic processes of their community, country and the outside world. [6]

One of the main objectives of establishing CECU in 2013 was to develop a civic education curriculum for use by civic education providers. The civic education curriculum was developed by the Uganda Project Implementation and Management Centre (UPIMAC). This was done in consultation with National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), Uganda Law Society (ULS), members of the Technical Working Committee (TWC) from partner CSOs, approved members of the Resource Centre Steering Committee (RCSC) from state and non-state actors’ [6] and Uganda Human Rights Commission [5]. This curriculum has been divided into 12 different modules, which are listed below:

  1. The Constitution – It is the duty of every citizen of Uganda to uphold the national values as enshrined in the Constitution.

  2. Citizenship – It is the duty of a citizen to acquire documents that confirm their Ugandan citizenship.

  3. Human Rights – We all have equal rights. It is our duty to respect the rights, beliefs and opinions of others, including the most vulnerable in our community.

  4. Democracy and Multiparty System – Everyone has the right to vote.

  5. Good Governance and Service Delivery – Citizens need to stay informed about the issues and challenges in their country in order to elect the right person.

  6. Leadership and Accountability – As a citizen, one has the responsibility to fight corruption using available laws, policies and institutions.

  7. Access to Justice.

  8. Local Government – It is a citizen’s responsibility to attend community meetings to inform their leaders about current issues.

  9. Gender- speak up, for example to prevent gender-based violence to protect other people.

  10. Nationalism - being loyal to one’s country, participate in activities that promote national building, promote national values and interests.

  11. Regional Integration - is beneficial for every member because it leads to wider market for business and employment across borders.

  12. Land - need to seek help for fulfilling your rights. [6]

This curriculum as stated above seeks to, enhance the knowledge and ability of citizens to claim their rights, guide them in making informed decisions, actively participate in democratic processes and demand accountability at all levels. [6] This process must help people overcome political apathy, teach more peaceful forms of political civic behaviour and help provide tools to solve social problems in non-violent ways. [1] The education can take different forms, including classroom-based learning, informal training, experiential learning and mass media campaigns. [25] The overall goal of civic education is to promote civic engagement, support democratic and participatory governance. The idea behind civic education is to promote the demand for good governance. For example; an informed and engaged public, complements efforts to improve the practice of good governance. [25]

Lastly, the Civic Education Network for Eastern and Southern Africa (CENESA), a regional network of Non-Governmental Organisations engaged in civic education sums up civic education as ‘all processes that impact people’s knowledge, skills, beliefs, behaviour, norms and values in order to be active, responsible and democratic citizens.’ [7] All definitions point at the need to empower citizens participate efficiently, effectively and adequately in democratic governance.

3. Non-formal Citizenship Education

This chapter focuses on non-state civic education providers and promoters. The non-formal component of civic education is of great importance to Uganda due to the high school dropout rate, limited access to formal education and the large uneducated/illiterate population. Girls and women are particularly affected, as they oftentimes fail to realise the importance of participation in politics. [1] However, the success of democracy and development depends on empowering citizens to participate effectively in the democratic processes, at both community and national level.

In Uganda, there are a number of CSOs delivering civic education under various thematic areas. Some of the themes include; education, children, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, gender equality, elections, human rights, natural resources and the environment, among others. These CSOs are found at the national and community levels. Some of the groups have formed networks/coalitions/consortia in order to effectively promote civic education to their target groups. [1] Some of the prominent groups include: Uganda Women’s Network [8], National Association of Women Organisations [9], FIDA (U) [10], Forum for Women in Democracy [11], Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda [12], National Association of Professional Environmentalists [13], Buliisa District Women Association, Friends of Zoka Forest [14], Navigators of Development Association [15], Alliance for Women Advocating for Change [16], Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy [17], Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum [18], National Association of Women’s Action in Development [19].

As earlier noted, CECU, a coalition of state agencies and CSOs, works towards harmonisation, coordination and sustainability of civic education activities in Uganda. [4] The Coalition has 28 members with non-state actors that include: Abantu for Development Uganda (AFOD), Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), Human Rights Network (HURINET), Uganda Project Implementation and Management Centre (UPIMAC), and Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET). [5]

Faith based or religious organisations also play an important role in promoting civic education. These include the Uganda Joint Christian Council and the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council. NGOs affiliated to religion such as Muslim Centre for Justice and Law actively carry out civic education. These have fewer challenges due to their organisational and financial reserves. [1]

Furthermore, women’s rights organisations have also grown considerably in recent years, and are also actively carrying out civic education. [1] For instance, with regard to the partnerships under CECU, it is also noticeable that a large number of women’s rights organisations are represented, which underlines their significance. [5]

In an interview with Mr Kamadi Byonabye, the Director, Research, Education and Documentation at the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) on 27th October 2021, he said that there are various approaches to implement and promote civic education which individual actors have adopted in order to reach target groups in the most effective and efficient way.

According to Mr Kamadi, the target group defines the methodology and approaches. For instance, children are best reached through school, adults through community meetings and the general public through media outlets. [5]

4. Legal Environment

Article 52 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995, mandates the UHRC to ‘formulate, implement and oversee programmes intended to inculcate in the citizens of Uganda awareness of their civic responsibilities and an appreciation of their rights and obligations as free people.’ [3] The Uganda Human Rights Commission Act, Cap. 24 enforces this provision. [26] These provisions underline the aspect of civic responsibility and underscore the critical importance of civic education.

The Uganda school system, is divided into two; primary and secondary school education. Primary school education starts from primary one to primary seven while secondary school education starts from senior one to senior six. According to the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), in this period no special reference is made to civic education except for the subject Social Studies. Similarly, in secondary school education, civic education is not given much focus. Nonetheless, departing from primary education, the goals of secondary education bear characteristics of civic education. [20] According to the NCDC, these include:

  • Instilling, promoting national unity with an understanding of social and civic responsibilities. This includes; strong love, care for others, respect for public property, an appreciation of international relations and benefits of international cooperation.

  • Enabling the individual apply acquired skills in solving problems of the community, to instil in him/her a strong sense of constructive and beneficial belonging to that community. [20]

Cross cutting issues are also addressed during secondary school education such as climate change, animal welfare and reproductive health. However, there is still no explicit mention of civic education. [20]

The UHRC has drafted a National Civic Education Policy, which is currently before Cabinet. If passed, the Policy will standardise the provision of civic education in Uganda. [5]

5. Stakeholders

The governmental institution that bears the constitutional mandate to promote civic education is the UHRC. The UHRC was established in 1996 as an independent body. The functions of the UHRC include, to formulate, implement and oversee programs to raise awareness of Ugandan citizens of their civic responsibilities, an appreciation of their rights and obligations as free people. [21] In its 21st Annual Report, the UHRC highlights that it has utilised various platforms, such as baraza meetings and road shows using civic education vans, to promote civic education. [22]

In their 2018 Annual Report, the UHRC targeted mostly grassroot communities whom they engaged in human rights education through road shows. The UHRC has as a result reached hard to reach geographical areas in Uganda to enhance citizen understanding of their rights and freedoms. The UHRC has also utilised music presentations on different human rights issues, interactive question and answer sessions to enhance civic education. The UHRC was able to reach 68,355 people across the country. [22] The UHRC is part of the national efforts to promote civic education including the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) and National Initiative for Civic Education in Uganda (NICE-UG), among others. [5]

In 1997, the UHRC formed a Civic Education Committee that constitutes constitutional bodies such as the Electoral Commission of Uganda, the Judicial Service Commission and the Inspectorate of Government. The two bodies representing civic groups involved in civic education include the Human Rights Network (HURINET) and the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET). [1]

The Electoral Commission established under Article 60 (1) of the Constitution and the Electoral Commission Act,1997 is particularly responsible for civic education programs in respect to elections. The body is responsible for drawing up and implementing programmes to enhance citizens’ awareness and civic consciousness on elections. However, the Electoral Commission has failed to effectively execute its mandate due to financial and organizational problems. Focus has mainly been on voter education, which has been hurriedly organized rather than civic education that is more systematic and continuous. [1]

In 2019, the President of the Republic of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, launched the National Initiative for Civic Education in Uganda (NICE-UG) as a Presidential Initiative. NICE-UG is the first structured collaboration with the Government of Uganda, the United Nations, civil society, private sector, cultural and religious leaders to promote efficient delivery of relevant, value-based civic education. [23] One activity that is currently being run by the initiative is ‘This is home campaign.’ The campaign seeks to generate conversations around Uganda as a big family and the strength of unity of Ugandans to create change. [24] This initiative is designed as one of the strategies to meet the objectives of the Uganda Vision 2040, the Third National Development Plan (NDP III) and the Sustainable Development Goals. [23]

6. Challenges

One of the challenges hindering the effective promotion of civic education in Uganda is the insufficient funding to support civic education programs. Donors fund many programmes, which is not a sustainable source of funds. Financial resources are required for materials, training and the educators. [1] This is reiterated by the UHRC which suffers from similar challenges as documented in its 2018 Annual report. The UHRC has thus urged government to increase financial support towards civic education programmes. [22]

Procurement of civic education materials is another challenge because most information is not translated into local languages. This leaves out majority of citizens, especially persons in rural areas and the elderly who are illiterate. [5]

The lack of standardisation of civic education programmes is yet another challenge. Organizations sporadically carry out civic education, albeit with no regulation bringing into question the quality of civic education programs being delivered. [5]

7. Conclusion

Civic education has not been accorded the importance it deserves in building civic competence of the population and entrenching the democratic culture. Focus has mainly been on voter education, which has been hurriedly organized rather than civic education that is more systematic and continuous. In addition, civic education has been misused for the interest of special interest groups in society for political propaganda. The result is usually tensions in the electoral campaigns that contribute to violent eruptions. [1] It is therefore essential to promote civic education in Uganda in so as to raise public awareness and build a civically competent citizenry actively involved in the country’s development agenda.

The reintroduction of civic education in the school curriculum is a campaign that needs to be supported by all stakeholders, learning from their peers in other countries on current trends of integrating civic education. Therefore, building private sector support for this process is essential for civic education in Uganda.

In order to develop materials, training, and concepts of citizenship on our own ground and make them more effective it is necessary to mobilize more support for civic education from government, financial institutions and not-for-profit companies. [1] There is also need for Government to approve the draft National Civic Education Policy.

8. Footnotes

[1] Civic Education and the Promotion of Participatory Democracy in Uganda; Mr.Katusiimeh (Lecturer in Mass Communication at Uganda Christian University).

[2] [Externer Link: https://www.independent.co.ug/civic-education-critical-for-ugandas-devt-experts/]. Accessed 15.09.2021.

[3] The Republic of Uganda, Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995.

[4] Civic Education Resource Centre. [Externer Link: https://upimac.org/resourcecentre/index.php/about-us/19-about-cecu/213-about-us]. accessed 17.09.2021.

[5] Interview with Kamadi Byonabye (Director of Research, Education and Documentation at Uganda Human Rights Commission) on 27th of October 2021.

[6] Civic education for effective participation of Ugandan citizens; Uganda Project Implementation and Management Centre (UPIMAC); 2016.

[7] Civic Education Network for Eastern and Southern Africa (CENESA). [Externer Link: http://cenesa.org/about/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[8] Uganda Women’s Network. [Externer Link: https://www.uwonet.or.ug/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[9] National Association of Women Organisations. [Externer Link: https://nawouganda.ug/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[10] FIDA (U). [Externer Link: https://fidauganda.org/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[11] Forum for Women in Democracy. [Externer Link: https://www.fowode.org/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[12] Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda. [Externer Link: https://www.ccedu.org.ug/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[13] National Association of Professional Environmentalists. [Externer Link: https://www.nape.or.ug/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[14] Friends of Zoka Forest. [Externer Link: https://www.friendsofzoka.org/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[15] Navigators of Development Association. [Externer Link: https://ucca-uganda.org/member/navigators-of-development-association/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[16] Alliance for Women Advocating for Change. [Externer Link: https://awacuganda.wordpress.com/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[17] Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy. [Externer Link: https://wonethauganda.org/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[18] Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum. [Externer Link: https://www.hrapf.org/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[19] National Association of Women’s Action in Development. [Externer Link: https://www.nawad.co.ug/]. Accessed 09.11.2021.

[20] National Curriculum Development Centre. [Externer Link: https://www.ncdc.go.ug/curriculum]. Accessed 19.10.2021.

[21] Uganda Human Rights Commission. [Externer Link: https://www.uhrc.ug/]. Accessed 21.10.2021.

[22] The 21st Annual Report – 2018; Uganda Human Rights Commission.

[23] [Externer Link: https://uganda.un.org/en/102985-remarks-launch-national-initiative-civic-education-uganda-nice-ug-gulu]. Accessed 20.10.2021.

[24] National Initiative for Civic Education in Uganda. [Externer Link: https://www.nice-ug.org/home-campaign/#]. Accessed 20.10.2021.

[25] Education and Deliberation on Civic Education; Jennifer Rietbergen-McCracken. [Externer Link: https://bit.ly/3HRlBF2].

[26] Section 7 (1) (h) of the Uganda Human Rights Commission Act, Cap.24.

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