COVID-19 Lock Down: Learners Tired, Want to Go Back to School

While government might not be decided on the re-opening of schools, learners that URN spoke to say they are tired of being home and want to school. They say learning from home is impossible. They miss their friends and teachers
School children in class in Katakwi, Eastern Uganda.

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After sitting home for six months in what has become the longest school break in the history of Uganda, learners now want to go back to school.

This comes after schools were closed in March 2020 by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as a way to limit the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). While the lockdown in Uganda has been lifted by more than 80 percent, schools still remain closed and it remains unclear on whether they will re-open soon.

At the time of the school closure, Uganda had not yet recorded any case of COVID-19. Today, the country has reported over 5,000 cases. Despite the rise in cases, learners that Uganda Radio Network - URN spoke to in Kampala intimated that they were tired of being home and wanted to go back to school. 

Many of them intimated that they want to go back to school to be able to study under the guidance of a teacher. They say they miss their school environment and friends.

Elijah Baingira, a senior two student at Ndejje Secondary School says while the prospect of an abrupt holiday was God sent when schools were closed, after sitting home for several months, he wants to go back to school to interact with teachers.

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In April, radio and TV lessons were introduced as a way to keep learners busy. Baingira says that after a month of diligently attending the lessons, him and his other four siblings have since given up because it was hard to keep up with what the teachers were teaching. 

Judith Ahimbisibwe, a primary three pupil at Dream Africa School, Naalya says that she misses school. Ahimbisibwe currently studies online three days a week. She says she wants to go back to school because they are given a lot of work online compared to when they are in school. 

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Henry Muwanika, a second year university student says the prolonged closure of schools has set him back one year academically. If it was business as usual, Muwanika would be nearer to completing his third year at University, ready to enter the employment world. Today, he is seated home doing nothing.

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A survey carried out by the Africa Policy Centre on the perception of University students on the closure of schools found that many learners found it a challenge to learn reportedly with many saying the cost of buying internet bundles was a lot more expensive than attending classes in person. Findings from the survey also show that majority of the learners found learning easier in a classroom environment than at home.

While learners might want to go back to school, parents are hesitant. With the increase in COVID-19 cases and cheaper costs associated with remote learning, having schools closed is ideal. Agnes Kirabo, a mother of two says she has saved more during the lockdown in terms of school expenses. She says if parents are given the option of continuing remote learning, she will take it.

“Normally I would have spent more than four million paying tuition for two school terms plus other requirements for both my children. Right now, I have spent roughly 1.2 million on classes for both of them in the last six months to pay for online classes plus around 200,000 on internet. This has been a deal for me. The fact that I also know they are safe, is an added benefit for me,” she said.

On the other hand, Maureen Kemigisha, a mother to a four year old at Cherubs Pre-School says the home environment is safer than schools. “If children and teachers had remained in schools from the onset, schools would be the safest place for our children. But right now with parents, teachers and even students leaving their houses, the disease is everywhere. Our children are safer at home,” says Kemigisha.

Some few parents such as Kirabo are able to facilitate continued learning for their children but others are not. Government efforts to deliver learning materials countrywide at local district offices and through newspapers ended up benefiting some and leaving many disadvantaged.

Uganda is expected to carry out a phased re-opening of schools later this month. When schools open, educationists propose that first priority be given to finalists in all medical education institutions and also at other levels of education. Learners will need to get accustomed to a new normal where physical spacing, mandatory washing of hands and continuous disinfection of surfaces will have to be carried out.

President Museveni is expected to address the nation on September 20th, 2020. One of the issues that he is likely to address is the re-opening of schools. For now, it remains unclear when learners such as Ahimbisibwe or Muwanika will be able to go to back to school.