History of Teaching Christian Religious Education in Uganda

Before the advent of Christian missionaries in Uganda, all children were exposed to traditional (indigenous) education, offered to them in homes, and anywhere social and economic activities took place. Every adult member had a role to play in the education of children in their society. The education was informal in the sense that there were no specific places from where learning took place; no specific time for teaching or learning; no specific teachers to teach children; and no specific syllabus to be followed in teaching. Children learnt anytime, anywhere and with any adult.

Missionary Education in Uganda

The coming of the Anglican missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1877 and the French Catholic White Fathers in 1879 changed the religious setting of the indigenous societies. They introduced another form of education which came to be referred to as western education, because the pioneer missionaries that brought it were from Western Europe. It should be noted that by the time Christian missionaries came, Arabs had already come in 1844, but their major interest was trade, not education. They ventured into formal education later.

The first missionaries also brought political changes like colonialism. Missionaries became agents of colonisation while education served as a foundation for indoctrination. The system which the missionaries established had catechist schools; bush schools or sub grade schools, elementary schools, central schools, high schools technical schools and teacher training schools.

The curriculum covered catechism, reading, writing and numbers. The catechism syllabus varied with denominational interests. Each religious denomination developed its own schools to advance their interests, thus promoting religious divisions.

Secondary Schools in Uganda

From the 1870s high schools started developing in Uganda for example Mackay College (1875), Mengo Senior School (1895), Namilyango (1902), Kings College Buddo (1906), Rubaga High School (1908), Nabumali High School (1911), Ngora High School (1912), Kyebambe High School (1913) among others. These were set up for the sons and daughters of chiefs and other influential members in society.

Figure 1 Google images of Kyebambe Girls School in the current State

Figure 2: Nabumali High School (1911), images of the school and the surroundings.

Figure 3 Mengo senior Secondary School

Kings College Buddo, an old Protestant school since 1906.

Though other subjects were taught in these schools, emphasis was on religious education.

The British colonial government too directly participated in the schools' education system in Uganda from the year 1925. A number of commissions were put in place for example the 1963 Castle Commission. This commission emphasized among other things, the teaching of religion in schools.

Regarding the teaching syllabus of Christian Religious Education, from 1970 to 1972, a committee of Catholic and Anglicans (Protestants) from Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda met to draw up the common issues to be addressed.

They prepared the Ordinary Level syllabus for Christian Religious Education (CRE), but left the primary level syllabus to individual nations. The Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) which comprises Anglican (Church of Uganda), Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches drew up the primary Christian Religious Education syllabus for use in Uganda. In 1973 the joint Catholic-Protestant syllabus in religious education was introduced for examination as a subject leading to the East African Certificate of Education.

The East African Examinations Council was disbanded in the year 1978. Since then each East African country has been setting its own examinations for primary and secondary schools. The Uganda National Examinations Board established in the year 1983 sets examinations for Christian Religious Education and other subjects for primary and secondary schools.

Aims of Teaching Religious Education

The aims and objectives of teaching Religious Education have come to be perceived as purely educational not religious or denominational. This is why it is called Religious Education not Religious Institution.

The general aims of religious education are:

  1. To provide children with an insight into the nature of religion and w hat it means to be religious.
  2. To help children acquire and develop skills which will enable them appreciate religious ideas and practices.
  1. To make available factual information about religion and religious phenomena.
  2. To encourage attitudes of openness and sensitivity towards people whose religious beliefs and customs may be different from their own.
  3. To provide in particular an awareness of the nature and claims of religion and of the part it has played in shaping the cultural and social life of Uganda.
  4. To help children to identify those areas of human life and experience in which religion plays a significant part.
  5. To explore with the children the relation between religion and other areas of experience and knowledge.
  6. To contribute towards the children's moral development.

General Aims of Christian Religious Education



  1. To develop an awareness and knowledge of God's presence and purpose in the world as revealed through His creation, the Bible, the Christian community, the life and teaching of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit living in the church today.
  2. To develop Christian virtues of love, joy, peace and service in the child, and build a personal Christian ideal to inspire his/her development and maturity.
  3. To live a committed Christian life following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
  4. To get knowledge of the teachings of the Bible and apply it in the Christian life or churches today.
  5. To appreciate the common elements in traditional religion, other religions and Christian beliefs.
  6. To develop the Christian moral values of honesty, concern for others, sharing, tolerance and justice.