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Providing Quality, Inclusive, Safe Education in Uganda

Improving reading outcomes, preventing school-related gender-based violence

The USAID-funded Uganda Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity (LARA) improved learning outcomes and school retention and reduced school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) by improving instruction, building a positive school climate, and strengthening students’ social and emotional learning. LARA was implemented in 38 targeted districts, reaching more than 3,500 schools, 40,000 teachers, and 1.3 million students.

Through its activities, LARA built local institutional capacity, supported policy development, and institutionalized training content and approaches, resource flows, and the local ownership needed for sustaining LARA’s contributions past the life of the program.   

Improved reading outcomes – and a foundation for more

LARA helped program schools improve learning instruction and increase student retention by training and supporting teachers and providing quality, language-appropriate learning materials to every child in Primary 1 to 4 (P 1-4, referring to grade) in the targeted districts. The program also carried out a learning campaign to encourage family members to read with their children. 

Assessments showed that learners in LARA-supported schools read with greater fluency than those in control schools. For instance, students learning to read in Luganda in program schools were more than twice as likely to read 20 words per minute (wpm) than students in control schools. In the Runyankore-Rukiga language, 41 percent of students in program schools could read 20 or more wpm compared to only 5.5 percent in control schools.  

And these results were achieved at scale. Together LARA and the USAID-funded and RTI-implemented Uganda School Health and Reading (SHRP), supported improved reading outcomes in 85 percent of the country's districts. 

Learn more about the impact of LARA and SHRP.

Preventing school-related and gender-based violence

SRGBV is widespread globally and includes bullying, harsh forms of punishment, and sexual harassment and assault. LARA’s SRGBV baseline study found that more than 95 percent of students reported being bullied in the past term and more than 88 percent said they were subjected to corporal punishment. More than 41 percent of P3 students and 50 percent of P5 students said they had experienced sexual harassment in the past term. Although both boys and girls experience all forms of violence, they experience it differently due to socially constructed gender and power inequalities prevailing in their school and community environments.

To prevent and reduce incidents of SRGBV and promote positive and supportive school climates, the LARA team worked collaboratively with local stakeholders to design the Journeys Program. Journeys included a series of activity handbooks—one for students, one for teachers and non-teaching school staff, and one for community members—that begin discussions and lead to collective action.

The innovative Journeys Program applied adult education techniques to educate teachers and community members about the problem, and their roles and responsibilities in addressing it. Recognizing that violence can be entrenched throughout schools and communities, Journeys engaged all key actors and was rolled out in 2,557 Ugandan public primary schools.

In 2018 LARA began implementing “Plus Up” activities to enhance child protection in target communities. Under Plus Up, LARA worked with local partners that specialize in helping orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) to identify and train community change agents to enhance child protection and support case management and referral. Through Plus Up, LARA directly addressed the needs of primary school girls and boys (aged 6-14), teachers, district and national education officers, parents, and community members. Additionally, LARA worked with OVC-specialized implementing partners to expand gender-based violence programming to eight new Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) districts, and integrated HIV/AIDS awareness into the student curriculum to further help children to protect themselves and others.

Stakeholder Capacity Development

LARA was an early adopter of the USAID collaboration, learning, and adaptation (CLA) approach, which was used to build the capacity of stakeholders at the system, school, and community levels to sustainably improve early grade reading in Uganda. 

LARA ensured broad and inclusive stakeholder engagement, using a facilitative approach to help education leaders initiate a change process with wide representation of stakeholders.

Learn more about our work in international education and in Uganda.