Uganda, "the Pearl of Africa," is a small landlocked East African country on the shores of Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile.
Uganda: the Country and its People
Uganda lies between the two arms of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa and is crossed by the equator. It borders with Kenya to the East, Sudan to the North, DRC to the West and Tanzania and Rwanda to the south. Uganda lies on the Great African Plateau with an average altitude of 4000 ft (1200M) above the sea level. Elevated areas are the Rwenzori Mountains (5000m) with permanent snow cover and Mount Elgon (4300m).
Total area is 242,139sq km, of which 42,000sq km (17%) is swamps and open fresh water bodies and 30, 000 sq km (12%) is forest reserves and game parks.
Uganda’s climate is equatorial but it is tempered by its elevated altitude. The average annual temperature is between 20 and 26 degrees centigrade over much of the country although 5 degrees centigrade in South Western and 35 degrees centigrade in the North and North East can be recorded.
Average annual rainfall is 1000mm in most parts of the country with the rainy seasons taking place in April/May and October/November. The wettest season takes place between March/April and hottest months in the year are from December to February when the temperatures reach 29 degrees centigrade. Most of Uganda is green all year round.
Life expectancy in Uganda is 51 years for men and 53 years for women. This is a decrease from previous life expectancy, and is largely due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. The fertility rate in Uganda is one of the highest in the world: 6.8 children per woman, leading to a population growth of 3.6% per year. This also means that there are a lot of children: 50% of the population in Uganda is under 15 years of age. Infant mortality is 66 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Although it is technically free to see a government doctor in Uganda, fees for pharmaceuticals and diagnostic tests are common. Fees are also paid to see a doctor in private hospitals or clinics. These fees vary from facility to facility.
Uganda's literacy rate in 2002 was 77% for men and 58% for women. Primary education is free but of variable quality. Free Secondary education is currently implemented in a few secondary schools. In 2000, 49% of Ugandan boys had completed primary education, and 25% of girls, but only 13% of boys and 7% of girls had completed secondary education. This disparity between men and women continues to the university level.
Uganda’s official language is English, although Swahili is also being debated as a potential national language. Most educated Ugandans can speak some form of English. Luganda is the language which is most widely spoken in Uganda, but mostly in Central, Near Eastern and South Western Uganda. It is the mother tongue of the Buganda people of the Central region and are very predominant around Kampala. English is left over from Luo and other languages are used in the North and there are dozens of other tribal languages throughout the country.
Money and Banking
The currency used is the Uganda Shilling. There are quite a number of international banks that you could use for money transactions: Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and Stanbic Bank.
Several ATM machines accept major debit cards. These include ATM Machines for the Standard Chartered Bank, Orient Bank, Crane Bank, Stanbic Bank and Barclays Bank; they all accept Visa and Visa Electron Cards. Credit cards are largely not used in Uganda –Visa and American Express are accepted only in big upmarket hotels (usually with a relatively high transaction fee). Please inform your bank that you are travelling to Uganda, so that you do not get problems when withdrawing money with use of ATM while in Uganda.
Money can be obtained through a VISA advance at Barclays bank with a 10% charge. Foreign Exchange Bureaus are readily accessible and offer competitive exchange rates. Most of them are open until 5.00pm, including Saturdays but the Crane Forex Bureau at Speke Hotel is open until 8.30pm every day.
Please bring USD, GBP, Euros and other major currencies in big denominations, $100 and $50 bills are preferable. Bills smaller than $50 are bought by the Forex Bureau at a lower exchange rate; 20% less than what you would get for 50 and 100 $ bills.). Cashing traveller’s cheques is charged a minimum of 10% service.
The preferred means of payment is cash for most transactions in Uganda.
What to wear
A modest dress code should be followed at all times. An umbrella, raincoat, sturdy shoes and jacket are recommended for the wet season.
In general, dress modestly and conservatively. Do not wear jeans, shorts, sneakers, sports t-shirts, or overly tight or revealing clothing in the class.
*Skirts with lengths to or below the knee, or dress trousers (cotton or linen or synthetic blends are ok), with a blouse, shirt, or sweater.
*Nice shoes (many students wear ballet-flat style) or sandals. At least one pair of closed-toe shoes is recommended.
*Trousers (including nice comfortable khakis), with an ironed shirt (with or without tie)
*Iron your clothes and polish your shoes if you are able to, as this is a sign of respect to both your students and colleagues in at work.