Uganda has reopened schools for the first time in two years, marking the end of the world’s longest school closure from the COVID-19 pandemic. While many welcomed the return of students to the classroom, the low turnout has raised concerns about the long-term impact. on education.
It’s first day of school in Uganda and students are checking in. Apart from packaged food items for those in boarding session, other items such as masks and hand sanitisers are essential for the returnees.
Uganda closed schools for more than 15 million learners in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
One class is going on in Grace Nursery and Primary School. But head teacher Nasoji Devine Kakembo says not everyone has reported.
“I was expecting many kids, because I’ve been talking to parents and they want to bring their kids back to school. But what I expected is not what I’ve seen. The numbers are small now.” The parents are still looking for money, ”says Kakembo.
Bakumbi Kawthar, head teacher at KTZ Center for Disabilities Primary School, says the pandemic has changed the lives of many children.
“Some of these children are now parents. They have to go to work and take care of their children. Some have become heads of other families. Because some families have lost parents. others are earning. You can meet a kid and he says, for me, I have a construction site where I go and bring some money. Such children are unlikely to come back,” says Bakumbi Kavthar.
Kayaga Doreen took her eight-year-old daughter to Kitizi School. She worries about money – but she couldn’t hide her excitement.
“I am very happy,” she said. “I have asked every parent to bring their child to school. Children are at home for a long time and they are making such fuss. They are all grown up and should be in higher classes. My main concern is tuition After all this, now I have to give tuition by staying at home, where to start?
Mary Goretti Nakabugo, executive director of Uwezo Uganda, a non-profit that works to promote equitable quality education, notes that school closures have deprived many students of basic education.
“Even before the closure, 90% of them had not yet achieved a foundation,” she said. “For example, reading is extremely important. So, it is time for us to rethink our curriculum, our curriculum, our teaching and learning. Can they read, can they do basic arithmetic?”
Uwezo says given the gap in education most children experienced during the shutdown, most parents are eager to see their children return to school.