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Role of Religious Institutions in Education in Teso


A Presentation made during the First Conference on Education in Teso by Rev Samuel Ediau, Diocesan Secretary, Church of Uganda, Soroti. 


The education development of any country is based on its political, economic and social advancement. Every community could be identified not only through its moral, religious and political organization, but also through the education it provides to its citizens.

Before the coming of missionaries and the introduction of formal education, Africans including the people of Teso had informal education which was offered by each ethnic group to train young men and women how to become acceptable and responsible adults in the eyes of their own group. It revolved around oral tradition and survival skills

However with the coming of missionaries in 1877 and 1879, Christianity and western education was introduced to Uganda. Between 1877 and 1918, formal education was developed under the church missionary society and the Roman Catholic missionaries. They set the syllabi, wrote the curriculum, set standards of accomplishment for each grade, built and administered schools and trained teachers.

The missionaries sought to win souls as much as to cultivate the minds. They established schools that were to be centres of excellence and godliness. The presence of missionary schools helped in the spread of western style education in Uganda. The missionaries realized that he who holds the schools, holds the country, holds its religion and holds its future. The colonial government therefore used education through the missionaries to advance their interests of spreading Christianity and colonialism hence the saying “the flag followed the cross”.

Not until 1924, when Uganda became a British protectorate, education was purely run by missionaries. Then in 1925, the Phelps-stokes commission recommended that the colonial government should finance and direct education policies in Uganda. The department of education was formed and finances from the colonial government in terms of grant aid to mission schools greatly increased. This resulted in better school buildings and an increase in facilities, coordinated syllabuses, and boosting of education. However the missionaries were still in full control of their schools.

In 1940, there was the Thomas Education committee appointed to revive the education system in Uganda since the Phelps-stokes commission. It recommended for the reduction of the powers of the missionaries and the involvement of parents in education management and financing. It also recommended that primary education be planned and financed by local governments and central government handles secondary education through the board of governors.

By 1960 the Thomas Committee recommendations and those of the Bunsen committee of 1952 by Sir Andrew Cohen, were implemented and the BOGS were in control of secondary schools meanwhile the school management committees were in charge of managing primary schools. The Bunsen committee also recommended for the establishment of government founded secondary schools. This was to reduce discrimination and denominationalism by setting up schools that can be attended by students irrespective of religion, colour and tribe.

The government also took over missionary schools left by missionaries who left after Uganda attained her independence. Government schools like Teso College, Lango College, Busoga College Mwiri, Ntare etc. were established. The takeover of schools by government was clearly stipulated in the Education Act of 1963 which left the foundation bodies to be only represented in the BOGs and SMCs. The situation remained like that until the early 2000s.

The Education Act of 2008 tried to bring foundation bodies back by having strengthened role in governance and management but government still controls the running of these schools because they fully pay salaries, provide infrastructure and scholastic materials.


Although more than 85% of the schools in Uganda are church founded and government grant aided, the church does not enjoy the powers it had over her schools before independence. However, the religious institutions have continued to start schools and hand them over to the government for grant aiding because they lack the resources to fully run them. Hence more than 95% of all church schools are government grant aided.

The role of the religious institutions in providing education in Uganda is older than government itself and they have continued to play a very central role in education service provision in this country. To date most of the best preforming schools in Uganda are missionary schools or those founded by religious institutions, e.g. Namagunga for the Catholics, Gayaza for the Anglicans and Nabisunsa for the Moslems just to sample a few.

The government and the religious institutions are partners and the latter supplement government efforts in the provision of education in this country. The recent Education Act of 2008 tries to reinforce these roles. The Education Act, 2008 gives foundation bodies among other responsibilities, that of governance, moral and spiritual formation and resource mobilization in their schools.


What are Religious institutions?

According to UNESCO, these are churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship and institutions that exist to support and manage the practice of a specific set of religious beliefs.

What Religious Institutions in Teso are involved in Education?

  • Catholic church found more than 200 institutions
  • Anglican church found more than 200 institutions
  • Moslems and Pentecostals especially PAG who have a few institutions as well


  • They are involved in formal, informal and non-formal education
  • They have started, built and founded schools both government grant aided and private schools. Examples are Ngora High school, Serere S.S, Amuria S.S, St. Thomas Girls S.S for the Anglican Church. St. Elizabeth Girls, St. Mary’s Girls, St. Francis S.S Acumet for the Catholic Church. PAG secondary school for PAG Soroti to mention but a few.
  • Provided school infrastructure in her schools by building classrooms, pit latrines, dormitories etc. whenever need arises.
  • Constructed girls hostels so as to safeguard girl children. CoU Soroti has girls’ hostels built by the Diocese in Katakwi for St. Paul S.S, Amuria for Amuria S.S, Serere for Serere S.S and Kamod for Kamod S.S.
  • They are involved in school management and governance through influencing the appointment of head teachers and deputies in their schools and also in the choice of most of the foundation governors in the BOGs (5 members) and SMCs (6 members)
  • They are also involved in the training and induction of school management bodies like the BOGS/SMCs and PTAs on their roles and responsibilities in school governance.
  • They are involved in human resource training and deployment. We strategically train teachers, chaplains and deploy them to help manage our schools. The catholic church has especially been good in this hence some of their institutions are run by nuns and priests.
  • Provision of land for school establishment and expansion.
  • Christian education through provision of Christian literature and other educational materials.
  • Child Educational sponsorship. CoU Soroti Diocese has especially been involved in this since 1984 and has had over 1,000 students supported through school and we have them serving their communities at various levels. We have products who are MPs, engineers, doctors teachers, social workers nurses etc. We have had projects like AEE, TESS, CHESI and sponsorship through compassion projects now helping the Anglican and Pentecostal churches in Teso.
  • We influence the development of CRE curriculum and its teaching in schools for moral formation of learners. A number of church schools have CRE as a compulsory subject.
  • Functional adult literacy education for especially rural communities since illiteracy among women in Teso is at 44%. CoU Soroti is currently implementing this through its mothers union desk for Katakwi and Amuria.
  • We are also involved in vocational and apprenticeship skills training and have established vocational and skills training centres like Kumi technical, St. Kizitos, Vocational Training institute Soroti, among others.
  • Parenting, sex and hygiene education which are done through informal programmes. Currently CoU runs menstrual hygiene management programme which trains girls 9 years old and above on sex education and menstrual hygiene management in schools.
  • We are involved in education lobby and advocacy. For example, the late Bishop Gersom Ilukor played a very key role in the establishment of Kumi University and now Soroti University which he wanted to be called Teso University.
  • We are also fully involved in resource mobilization and fund raising for different educational church projects. Worth noting is how the CoU and Catholic church wrote separate proposals to the Netherlands seeking for funding for education after the devastation of education in the 1980s and early 1990s. Their proposals went to the same donor who asked them to write a joint proposal hence the origin of joint projects like BERP, BESP and EQUIP which united the two churches from 1996 to 2014 and was considered the best joint educational programme in the region and beyond.


  • As highlighted above, the religious institutions have been actively involved in education for over 100 years. However there are things they are doing well, and there are those they need to improve on, and those they need to start doing to improve education in the region. These include:
  • Lobby government for increased space in the management and governance of her schools.
  • Continue fundraising for education projects in Teso.
  • Establish more model schools where impact is concentrated so that they become demonstration schools where others come to learn from. In 2003, CoU Soroti tested the idea of model school by refurbishing Katakwi P/S, Soroti Demonstration School and Alem P/S in Kaberamaido. We fenced them, built dormitories and turned them to boarding schools. These schools have been our best performing schools in those districts ever since.
  • Human resource development and strengthening so as to address staffing gaps in management, teaching and chaplaincy in schools. We need to deliberately train and deploy the right people to the right places.
  • Targeted sponsorship. This should not be done for the sake of just sponsoring anybody. Teso needs sponsorship at tertiary level for strategic courses or disciplines. With government stepping in to provide universal education at primary and secondary level, sponsorship organizations must strategize in sponsorship provision. We need to focus on critical levels like vocational and targeted tertiary education.
  • Put more emphasis on skilling Teso by opening more vocational and skills training centres to address increasing numbers of school drop outs and those who can’t afford higher education.
  • Cooperate and agree with government on the establishment of seed schools on church land. Government policy of a secondary school in every sub county is very achievable with cooperation with religious institutions who are the custodians of most of the land in the country. Government wants the church to donate land and they church says, we must be the foundation body hence there is a snag which needs resolving so that education services are brought closer to our people.
  • Surveying of church/school land. The church as the foundation body of church founded schools owns land where the school is built and most of this land is under threat from encroachers which puts the very existence of these schools at a risk. There is need for government for the sake of protecting the schools to see how to help the religious institutions secure their lands including school land. Most of the church land is not surveyed hence no safety for the church and school.
  • There must be cooperation and networking among the different religious groups. Sometimes we compete and struggle for schools and land thus giving our enemies chance to divide and rule. Cooperation and networking enables us to learn from each other and avoid duplication of service delivery. We can work as coalitions and implement various educational programme in the region based on our comparative advantage since we have different expertise.
  • Policy influence at the local, national and international policy structures. We are in the right position to galvanize and mobilize various education stakeholders and actors in the region. This can be through involvement in annual education conferences that brings all the key education actors together to discuss education issues with emphasis on the Teso agenda. We can play this role as key actors in education.


  • From the highlights on the history of education in Uganda and the current roles played by the religious institutions in education, it is clear that religious institutions are strategic partners with government in education service delivery. Education department is one of the key departments you find in the main religious institutions, and through those departments the various activities mentioned above have been and are being implemented.
  • However because of limited space by government, limited funding and different capacity gaps, religious institutions have not been able to perform to their best and some church schools are doing very poorly in terms of management, students discipline and academic performance/results.
  • There is need for government to see religious institutions as partners and not rivals and step in to help fill the gaps caused by limitations mentioned above. After all it is the responsibility of government to educate its citizens and the churches are only helping government do their work by supplementing their efforts. The animosity, mistrust and suspicion that is increasing now must stop if progress is to be made. There must be respect for each other, peaceful co- existence and responsibility and accountability in our service of the people we lead.
  • However, it is important to note that no single institution can by itself advance education achievement in Teso to the desired levels. It calls for concerted efforts of all different actors and stakeholders at various levels to join hands and make Teso great again. It takes deliberate efforts to train the best professionals in order to produce professors again, to establish and develop the best educational institutions in Teso and to inculcate the love for education and learning in the hearts and minds of our young people who have lost hope due the sad and dark past and current lack of opportunities and jobs.
  • Thank you for listening to me. I submit.

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