PEAS: Making Secondary Education Relevant in Uganda

January 08, 2014Jordan Worthington

Jordan Worthington is a Program Associate at Results for Development, where she works on the Center for Education Innovations and the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE)

Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) works to increase the access, relevance, and quality of secondary education in Uganda and Zambia. They work through a unique SmartAid model, whereby PEAS fundraises to build secondary schools which they manage through public-private partnerships with the Ugandan and Zambian government. Once students arrive at a PEAS school, they learn from the Ugandan secondary school curriculum and a Citizen Education Curriculum (CEC), where they have the chance to practice their entrepreneurial skills through income-generating activities (IGAs).

As a member of the CEI team, I had the opportunity to visit Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) at their head offices in Uganda, as well as their Onwards and Upwards Secondary School in the peri-urban town of Wakiso, Uganda, which lies 20km east of Kampala. We were there to learn more about their work funded by the multi-donor collaborative, the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE). Through the PSIPSE project, PEAS schools are improving teacher training and development, introducing additional innovative financing mechanisms such as IGAs, and enhancing the existing CEC.

Sustainability Through IGAs

The Onwards and Upwards Secondary School has over 800 students, with 250 of them boarding at the school. Because the school itself is so close to an urban center, it wasn’t the most representative of PEAS schools which are often located in more remote and rural areas. That said: it was great to see how a PEAS-model school operates. PEAS schools generally attempt a variety of different income generating activities. At the school we visited, construction block-making didn’t work out and bee-keeping was too dangerous – the bees were too close to the school. Instead, the school now produces liquid soap, which is doubly beneficial: the school not only has a supply of soap to ensure high levels of sanitation for its students, but is also able to sell the soap for profit.

PEAS secondary schools are usually built on 5-8 acres of land, which is not always enough land to generate significant income through farming. Therefore, PEAS has three hubs for IGA farms near Kampala, and in Eastern and Western Uganda. With this in mind, PEAS will aim at purchasing land that is at least 10 acres to build new secondary schools, a more adequate size to support school-based farming as an IGA. Learning about and seeing their IGAs illustrated that the first ideas for income generation are not always the best: school sustainability through income generating activities is a process that requires trial and error, as well as knowing the capacity of school staff and land.

Practical Secondary Education

Across the world, secondary education is struggling to remain relevant to students. Current models of secondary education in many countries are designed to provide a route to a college or university setting, while the reality is that students will very often enter the workforce after completing or partially completing secondary education. Through their CEC, students study money management, career guidance, reproductive health, and substance abuse. This curriculum is also sensitive and responsive to gender concerns, in order to increase the retention of girls in secondary school. Additionally, PEAS hopes that all students will leave their schools with at least one vocational skill. Knowledge around these issues will help prepare students for the realities of adulthood and help them to become well-rounded, informed contributors to their communities.

It will take time for secondary education to become more relevant across the developing world, but PEAS’ model is an excellent place to start. This public-private partnership that incorporates school-based IGAs into their financial sustainability plans and uses a more forward-thinking approach in their citizen education curriculum. I believe that as secondary education becomes a more prominent topic in the international education agenda, these elements of PEAS’ model will become more common across secondary education in the developing world.

To read more about PEAS, check out their CEI profile.

Photos taken by Jordan Worthington.

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