This article examines the impact of including refugee children in government schools on learning achievement of both refugee and native pupils in the West Nile region of Uganda. Between June 2016 and December 2017, the refugee population in Uganda increased from 0.2 million to 1.4 million, largely due to the arrival of large numbers of refugees from South Sudan. As of October 2017, when data for this study was collected, there were more than 1 million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, the majority hosted in the West Nile region.
Humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations established donor-funded schools in the refugee settlements when there weren’t any nearby government schools. Government schools also received donor assistance proportionate to the number of refugees they enrolled.
The analysis draws on household survey data collected from South Sudanese refugees and host communities, including learning assessments. During the survey, a questionnaire was administered to household heads (or their representatives) to collect information on the households and children aged 16 and younger. English and mathematics tests were administered to all children aged 6 to 16, regardless of their school attendance.
- Descriptive statistics show that refugee pupils perform better in both English and math compared to Ugandan pupils in the West Nile region attending government schools, even though refugee pupils are from households with less educated heads and continue their learning in a poorer school environment with higher pupil–teacher ratios (PTR). Additionally, government schools have a relatively better learning environment (lower pupil-teacher ratio) than non-government schools.
- Refugee pupils attending government schools do not perform differently in English but score lower in mathematics than those in non-government schools. The authors suggest that this result shows that inclusion in local government schools has no significant negative effect on refugee pupils’ English scores in a context where the national language of refugees and that of natives are the same.
- Learning achievement of refugees is determined by several factors including: a positive effect of household head’s education on the mathematics test score; a positive effect of having a source of income other than UNHCR stipends on the English test score; a positive effect of a longer stay in Uganda on the English test score; and a positive effect of hiring (untrained) refugee teaching assistants on the English test score. There is no association between PTR and refugee pupils’ learning achievement.
- Ugandan pupils attending government schools with higher refugee concentrations score lower in both English and mathematics, in the context of an ongoing influx of refugees.
- There are few major predictors of learning achievement among Ugandan pupils in government schools, except: a positive effect of having a female household head on the English test score; and a negative effect of the pupil-teacher ratio on the English test score.
The authors conclude that the inclusion of refugees in government schools in Uganda has not had a demonstrable positive effect on refugee or native pupils’ learning achievement in the context of an ongoing, large-scale refugee influx. The authors note that the finding that inclusion in government schools has no significant adverse effect on refugee pupils’ English scores, might only be relevant in contexts where the national language of refugees and that of natives are the same.