What seemed far off from Africa as a continent eventually got here! Globally, it was and is a health crisis killing people, causing human suffering and unimaginable upheaval. But this is much more than a health crisis; it is a human, economic and social crisis which is affecting communities at the very core.
Education in Uganda has been hit hard by the pandemic with 15 million plus learners country-wide out of school since March 19th 2020 due to closure of schools in compliance with measures to stop corona virus spread. Education is a basic human right critical for fighting poverty and vulnerability. It’s key to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specifically SDG1 (Zero Poverty) SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SGD 5 (Gender equality). The government of Uganda recognizes education as a basic human right and continues to strive to increase access to education to all children in the country despite all challenges it faces in relation to providing quality education for all. Obtaining quality education is the foundation to improving people’s lives.
The interference in education by corona virus outbreak is likely to affect education outcomes for learners at all levels as they will consequently suffer from learning relapses due to continued missing of classes. It is worse for children in rural areas who are unable to access and afford alternative learning services i.e. using online learning mechanisms, television, radio, smart phones, computers and laptops. This will increase the education access and outcomes divide between children in rural and urban areas.
Further still, many teachers in Uganda do not have adequate skills to undertake online teaching affecting the quality of service provided. The teachers are demotivated as some are not earning any salaries while schools are closed.
Though COVID-19 has affected education of all children, girls are disproportionately affected. It is likely that more girls than boys will drop out or discontinue school. In Uganda, girls drop out of school more than boys due to child marriage, teenage pregnancies, child labor and Gender Based Violence. This stems from existing traditional societal practices and norms that discriminate against women and girls (UNICEF and MoES 2016).
While several child caregivers have not been able to work during this crisis, others have lost their jobs. This has consequently affected their income and it will in the long run affect their capacity to afford children’s school requirements and needs. With constrained financial resources, guardians are likely to prioritize provision of education to the boy child while the girl child is engaged in labour to contribute to household welfare and take on baby-sitting roles for younger children in the home.
In collaboration with local government COVID-19 taskforce, UCOBAC with support from Canadian Feed The Children (CFTC) responded to effects of the pandemic on children’s education using innovative approaches. They have supported school children with self-learning study materials, provided relief food and farm inputs to affected children’s households to ensure that their families are food secure during this time of crisis.
They held awareness health raising campaigns on community radio to empower girls and communities with appropriate and timely information on sexual and reproductive health and gender based violence.