The school system generally comprises a seven-year primary course, a four-year junior secondary course, and a two-year senior secondary course for those who qualify. Those who do not choose to attend secondary schools may attend technical schools. The government hopes to ensure at least four years of education for every child who wishes to go to school. In the more densely populated areas this has already been achieved, but in the 1980s, following the war, many primary students were attending schools without windows, chairs, books, or writing materials. Many of the senior schools are boarding establishments, and bursaries are available from local authorities and various groups for qualified candidates unable to pay the fees. Primary schools are financed from central government grants, local government funds, and fees from pupils. In 1997, the government eliminated fees for education and introduced universal primary education made possible by IMF debt relief. All senior secondary schools, technical schools, and training colleges receive direct grants-inaid. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.6% of GDP.
In 1995 there were 10,000 primary schools, with 2,912,473 pupils and 82,745 teachers. At the secondary level there were 256,258 pupils and 14,447 teachers in general education in the same year. Enrollment in teacher-training schools was 22,703, and enrollment in vocational schools totaled 13,360. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 59 to 1 in 1999.
The University College of East Africa (founded 1921), became Makerere University in 1970. Situated on the outskirts of Kampala, it prepares students for degrees in the arts, sciences, and agriculture and for advanced diplomas in medicine, education, engineering, law, and veterinary science. Other universities include Mbale Islamic University and the Mbarara University of Science and Technology. There are also a number of religious colleges, five commercial colleges, 52 technical schools, and 71 colleges for teachers. In 1996–97 there were 34,773 pupils and 2,606 teachers in all higher-level institutions. Projected adult illiteracy rates for 2000 stand at 32.7% (males, 22.3%; females, 42.9%).