Magnificent lakes may not be the first thing you think of when you think about Uganda, but Uganda has indeed been blessed the unique, flowing African beauty. It is a nation of true spirit and culture, left somewhat untouched amidst a world of globalization and technological innovation. Living in a country dealing with determinant socio economic issues, teachers may find themselves learning and teaching more than they would expect during their time outside the classroom. Whether spending time with a Ugandan family in their home walled by hand-made clay bricks, observing a festive dance performance displaying the nation’s native dress, or exploring the fascinating natural environment, teachers will surely benefit from experiencing life in Uganda and interacting intimately with the locals and the culture itself.
Uganda is a landlocked country in Eastern Africa. It is surrounded by Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. The capital city is Kampala, which has a population of over 36 million people. The country is known for its large lakes, including Lake Albert, Lake Edward, and Lake Kyoga, in addition to the infamous Lake Victoria. Uganda is situated at the East African plateau, and while largely equatorial, it still experiences sporadic rainfall throughout the year.
The official language in Uganda is English, it is primarily used for public documents and commercial life. Local languages, such as Swahili and Luganda on the other hand, are used colloquially.
The Ugandan shilling is the nation’s transactional currency. Uganda is among the relatively affordable countries within the continent of Africa; homes often cost between $300 and $800 USD depending on the style of the home and the location. While dining out is not expensive in Uganda, groceries are definitely cheap and a small budget can get you a long way when it comes to cooking at home.
The most common land transportation options in Uganda are buses and minibuses. Minibuses are referred to as taxis, and have drop-off points in and around Kampala. Ordinary buses meanwhile connect major towns and are cheaper than minibuses, as well faster because they typically make less stops. The roads in Uganda are fairly good, most of them are paved especially those in the southern regions. Minor roads going to the north, meanwhile, are prone to potholes because they are exposed to heavy rains more often and are less well-kept.
Ugandan cuisine is a mix of English, Asian, and Arab roots. Most dishes consist of beans and meat, as well as cassava, sweet potato, and pearl millet. Chapati, an Indian flatbread, is a staple in most meals too. Ugandans typically choose chicken, goat, beef, and mutton when it comes to meat dishes.
In Uganda, you can see people playing football nearly anywhere. It's the country's national sport, and the national football team takes part in various competitions across Africa each year. Locals are also fond of playing cricket, baseball, rugby, and boxing.
Uganda is a highly Christian country, with Catholics and Protestants dominating the population. It is, however, multi-ethnic, though in general the country has displayed a stronger sense of national unity compared to its neighbors. When greeting Ugandans, you can begin with a handshake. You may also want to start conversations with topics about family and work before proceeding with your direct agenda. Individuals are often judged by the way they dress, thus it is best to dress conservatively considering the conservative nature of the locals.
Teaching in Uganda can be a great option for those who want to combine their passions to teach, travel, and explore. Teachers may have the opportunity to visit safari parks and do outdoor recreational activities, such as mountain climbing, trekking, and whitewater rafting in their free time, things not easily found in urban teaching locations in developed nations.
The education system in Uganda consists of primary education (seven years), secondary education (six years), and post-secondary or college education (three to five years). Among the most popular universities in the country are Makerere University, Gulu University, and Uganda Christian University.
Public education in the country is free up until the secondary level. The main problem in Ugandan public schools is the growing student-teacher ratio, which has negatively affected the standard of education. This increasing ratio has in turn heightened the need for foreign teachers.
If you intend to establish a teaching career in Uganda, it is best to have a bachelor's degree in education at the very least. With a bachelors degree in hand, foreign teachers can qualify for job posts in schools with more sufficient pay scales. A TEFL certificate won’t hurt either, as it shows a competence to teach the English language, even if you are not a licensed teacher or an education major.