Children in Uganda have expressed their happiness as they finally return to school nearly two years after the schools were closed because of the Covid pandemic
“I am delighted because it’s been a long time without seeing our teachers. And we have missed a lot” Joel Tumusiime told BBC.
“I am glad to be back at school,” echoed another, Mercy Angel Kebirungi.
But unfortunately after one of the world’s longest school closures, authorities notified that at least 30% of students may never come back to school.
The country’s national planning authority said “Some have started work, while others have become pregnant or married early”
About 15 million students have been affected by the closure, the government says.
The UN children’s agency, Warned on its Twitter handle “We can’t let this happen again. We must keep schools open for every child, everywhere,”
The Ugandan ex-teacher whose children may never return to school said
“Some classes reopened in October 2020 temporarily, but closed again in May and June of the following year”
While schools were closed, there have been some lessons via the radio, TV and newspapers while some schools have provided printed materials. But this medium have not reached everyone.
Some Wealthy Ugandans have also been able to access online classes and home tutors.
Unfortunately not all schools are able to follow the Covid precautions due to lack of resources and space.
Many children have not been to class for about 22 months. One pupil explained how she continued learning during the long halt, she said “My parents never had the time to study with me. When schools were closed, I was able to read on my own. Sometimes I would meet with friends to study,” said Christine Teburwa. Like Joel and Mercy, she is in Primary Five, meaning they are between nine and 11 years old.
Students who have not had any education since March 2020 will resume classes a year above where they were before the pandemic.
However, some parents in the capital, Kampala, questioned this idea.
A concerned parent by the name of Racheal Nalumansi said”My children have not been learning at all. I wish they could be allowed to continue from where they stopped,” .
“Before the first lockdown our children had only been in school for two weeks. So it is a bit concerning that they are now promoting them to the next class,” Vanetta Bangi said.
For those students who have not accessed any form of studying during the pandemic, the curriculum will be shortened to focus on core areas and give them a chance to catch up.
Lessons were already underway at some schools that were visited on Monday morning while in others, students were still cleaning classrooms and re-organizing their desks. Others were still registering with the school administration.
In other to avoid congestion on public transport, Boarding school students in Kampala and the nearby districts will start throughout the week,
Despite authorities instructing that health and safety measures like masks and social distancing should be in place, not all institutions have the clacity to ensure that these steps are properly followed. Some have huge numbers of students and very few classrooms.
But it is not only learners who will strive, many parents’ incomes were also hit by the pandemic, and most of them will find it difficult to raise money for tuition fees and other school requirements.
The phased reopening of schools, which started in November with universities and higher education institutions, was pegged to the vaccination of over 550,000 teachers, their support staff, and students aged 18 and above.
Uganda, which had some of the world’s strictest lockdowns, is now moving to fully revamping the economy despite being at the start of its third wave of the pandemic driven by the Omicron variant.
The Save the Children Charity Organization said ” Lost learning, could lead to high drop-out rate.