“The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale. You climb up … and at the end there is a wonderful new world. The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa... I say: ‘Concentrate on Uganda’. For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life - bird, insect, reptile, beast - for vast scale -- Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa.”
This was Winston Churchill's impression in 1907. And while his observations remain true today, the last 100+ years have witnessed many changes, advances, times of turbulence and also great difficulties. However today, Uganda is considered to be relatively stable and relatively peaceful within the region. This is a brief overview -it is by no means comprehensive – and more detailed, specialised information can be found by following the links below.
Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa, with an average altitude of about 1,100 metres. Although there is no coast, there are many large lakes and extensive areas of bush, swamp and marshy areas. Blessed with an overall equatorial climate – plenty of sunshine and rain – there are generally two rainy and two dry seasons, with some regional variations from north to south.
Some recent history
Since the late 1980s Uganda has rebounded from civil war and economic catastrophe to become relatively peaceful, stable and prosperous.
In the 1970s and 1980s Uganda was notorious for its human rights abuses, first during the military dictatorship of Idi Amin and then after the return to power of Milton Obote. During this time up to half a million people were killed in state-sponsored violence.
Since becoming president in 1986 Yoweri Museveni has introduced democratic reforms at a steady pace and been credited with substantially improving human rights, notably by reducing abuses by the army and the police.
Western-backed economic reforms produced solid growth and falls in inflation in the 1990s, and the discovery of oil and gas in the west of the country has boosted some confidence, although progress and development are slow and complex. The global economic turndown of 2008 hit Uganda hard, given its continuing dependence on coffee exports, and pushed up food prices.
The ongoing effect of the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda
The cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rampaged across northern Uganda for the past two decades and has in recent years spread to neighbouring countries, continuing to abduct and kill tens of thousands as well as displacing more than 1.5 million. Its leader Joseph Kony is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Still the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the north remain blighted by one of Africa's most brutal rebellions. Many students at WTA are either the actual victims, or the children of victims, of this 'civil war' or 'insurgency', as it is called. Although there is peace in the region, many rural areas of northern Uganda are still poverty stricken, due to the ravages and debilitating effects of civil war. People may have food to eat – as it grows easily in the climate, but mainly at a subsistence level. Cash is so scarce, so a child's education may be fragmented and intermittent – daily living for the poorest members of the community is extremely precarious and tough. Sometimes a family will choose, for financial reasons, to educate one child at a time.
For them, good quality affordable schooling is a rare find – hence the importance of a school like Wobulenzi Town Academy.
English and Swahili are the official languages of Uganda, but Luganda is the most commonly spoken of multiple other 'local' languages. Luganda is the language of the 'Buganda' people – from which Uganda takes its name. The projects are situated within Central Uganda, where most people speak Luganda, Although students come from every different language group within the country, as in all Ugandan Secondary Schools, the school language must be English.
Currently (2013) about 37.5 million people. The population has increased 7 times since 1950, when it was a mere 5 million. Increasing at the current rate is likely to take it to over 144 million by 2050. On average, Ugandan women have 6 or more children, and Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in Africa. There is therefore a very young population with a median age of 15 years.