Religious Groupings Adopting E-learning for Formation, Initiation Classes

Kampala Diocesan communications officer Ivan Naijuka, says from the start of discontinued religious education classes, a major concern for parents was if or when their children would receive first Communion or confirmation sacrament.

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As parents struggle to find ways of keeping, their children busy because of the unprecedented COVID-19 school induced closure, faith-based groupings have taken their formative and religious education classes to online platforms to ensure the spiritual growth of the generation. 

Although places of worship are partially opened, physical religious Education classes cannot take place because of the general suspension of learning activities nationwide. 

Kampala Diocesan Communications Officer, Ivan Naijuka, says that there have been concerns among parents on when their children would receive their first Communion or confirmation sacrament due to the discontinuation of religious classes. 

He, however, says that faith formation does not need to stop even with the suspension of physical classes. He says that they responded to the suspension of physical classes by going digital with online lessons facilitated by All Saints’ Cathedral Church, Kampala.   

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According to the arrangement, children aged 12 and above enrol after paying 50,000 Shillings to access lessons on a smartphone or laptop. Naijuka says those who enrol will have a face-to-face interaction at one point for assessment and confirmation later.

Similarly, the Muslim Centre for Research and Education Assessment founded by former presidential candidate, Muhammad Mayanja Kibirige has tapped into this space to ensure that Muslim children who have been attending madrasa to Learn Islamic Values at mosques shift to a home-based e-learning model.  

Kibirige, a renowned academician, says that he mooted the idea at Kasule High School, saying that if secular learning can happen online, religion could too. He says that they are teaching Arabic and different modules of the Holy Quran among others.    

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With mosques reopened for prayers, Kibirige has been using this opportunity to reach out to different Muslims to enrol their children. On Friday, the team was at Kololo Jamia Mosque and Muslims seem to have embraced their idea.

  Sheikh Burhan Kasujja, the imam of Kololo Jamia Mosque, says despite several limitations, having online lessons is a good initiative that parents can adopt during school closure. He, however, cautions parents to watch over their children to ensure that they use the gadgets for their intended purpose.

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Stephen Wanume, an administrator at United Christian Centre-UCC Mukono, says reaching out to the children has been problematic yet they hold the future of salvation, which makes online engagements handy.  

While many are using zoom and other closed remote corroborating tools, United Christian Centre-UCC Mukono streams these classes and engagements on social media platforms like Facebook free of charge. 

“Being a new item, it has not attracted many people. Moreover, it is hard to tell who is following. We hope to re-think our approach and see how better we can reach out to the children,” says Wanume.  

Sadik Mudoba, a Muslim faithful also welcomes the idea, saying that if learners can learn secular education online, the same can apply to religion.  

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Marion Nakawuka notes that the idea of putting formation classes online is not a wise decision. Nakawuka, a staunch catholic, says that much of the catechism content was not designed for online learning and neither are the catechists. 

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Rev Fr Pius Male, the chancellor of Kampala Catholic Archdiocese, says that they are yet to adopt e-Learning as the official way of teaching and faith formation among children and new converts.  He says that the technological divide amongst the faithful in the area has delayed the decision.

  “The archdiocese brings together people of different shades; those who are ICT literate and those who are not, those who own ICT gadgets and those who don’t. Deciding on migrating catechism, religious education, and formation classes online would be leaving out very many children. This has already been proved by the online classes that are being conducted by schools,” Rev Fr Male stressed.  

Rev Fr Male says that to reach out to all, the church has advised that this form of learning be carried out at home and they have started sending out the syllabus and related materials to parents as they wait for the reopening of physical learning of secular education.

“When schools reopen, we will certainly embark on these classes as we used to do,” he noted, adding that a few parishes or sub parishes that think they can be able to teach online depending on the needs assessment of their localities can go on but this is just optional.      

Faith formation and religious education classes normally take place over weekends and during holidays. Among Catholics and the Church of Uganda, the classes are mandatory and are conditional for specific sacraments while other faiths use them to inculcate their religious values among children and new converts.    

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