Schools in Uganda have remained closed for over 80 weeks, which is the longest school closure recorded across the world, yet the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown which led to the closure of schools is projected to worsen the already waning learning outcomes in the country.
The World Bank representative in Uganda has advised the Ministry of Education to expand instructional time as one of the means to
foster recovery of lost time when schools open their doors to learners.
Schools in Uganda have remained closed for over 80 weeks,
which is the longest school closure recorded across the world, yet the ongoing COVID-19
lockdown which led to the closure of schools is projected to worsen the already
waning learning outcomes in the country.
Rosemary Mukami Kariuki, the World
Bank Country Manager told URN in an interview that the government, in addition to the planned prioritization of
curricular fundamentals, can as well consider expanding
instructional time as one of the ways through which Uganda can make up for the
lost learning time.
According to Kariuki, expanding instructional time can be
done by modifying the academic calendar; extending the school day; decreasing
the number of days allocated for holidays, or adopting teaching over the
weekends where applicable.
//Cue in; “It needs some…
Cue out…been extended.”//
Instructional time is the amount of time during which learners are taught by a classroom teacher in a school. It can be compounded from the contact hours per day. For instance, in
Uganda school time is expected to start at 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in lower
classes, while the time for primary and secondary classes is extended up to 4 p.m.
running from Monday to Friday.
In their report titled; towards the safe opening of the
education sector in COVID-19 times, the National Planning Authority also suggested
adding weekend days to the normal school to catch up on lost learning time. Kariuki, says they have been discussing with the
education ministry to see how such proposals can be adopted in the school
She emphasizes that when it is considered, the ministry must
ensure that they take advantage of additional time to implement recovery
strategies and support teachers’ capacity to implement the strategies to ensure
that classroom teaching is more efficient. She, however, notes that expanding learning time might
come with some implications which might include paying teachers extra time and
also looking for alternative learning tools to complement the physical lesson.
//Cue in; “But, of course…
Cue out…be complemented.”//
Dr Mary Gorreti Nakabugo, an educationist and Executive Director of Uwezo Uganda, notes that everything that would help Ugandan
learners’ recover from the lost time is critical when schools reopen. she
however adds that expanding instruction or not will be dependent on options that are
going to be considered for the reopening.
Dr Nakabugo adds that if the ministry is going to use
the staggered reopening approach, it will be difficult to expand the
//Cue in; “(The) problem is…
Cue out…the school calendar.”//
The educationist, however, has reservations about expanding
instructional time. She shares that if the ministry considers this advice from
the World Bank, they must account for the fact that long hours of teaching
might be bad for learners and teachers.
“It’s a good idea but we need to approach it carefully to
see how we can handle it. Do we increase the learning hours per day? Do we
decrease the length of the holiday? but we must ensure that the learner is not
overstretched in the name of recovering the lost time,” says Nakabugo.
//Cue in; “I don’t know…
Cue out…we have lost.”//
But, Kariuki insists that the ministry must choose an
option that is compatible with Uganda’s education system to ensure that
learners are not overloaded.
//Cue in; “I think it…
Cue out…you have said.”//
Filbert Baguma, the General Secretary of Uganda National
Teachers Union-UNATU says that additional
school days and hours are very expensive options.
//Cue in; “Expanding the time…
Cue out…out of it.”//
Godlive Baguma, a primary school teacher, notes that
the proposal will be a way of officially accepting what is already happening in
many schools. To him, there is no room for expansion of instructional time as
the school has been occupying learners for longer than necessary.
“...Many schools, most especially
private and some public schools in urban areas had already expanded the
learning time with their lessons running from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the
evening. Many schools are also teaching night and morning preps in addition to
teaching during the weekend and term x which covers parts of the holidays,”
Meanwhile, in one of her papers on school reopening, Kariuki also stated that when schools
reopen, the ministry needs to implement remedial teaching strategies and ensure
teaching at the appropriate level.
With the prolonged closure, the World Bank estimates that
Ugandans may lose an average of 0.7 to 1.4 learning adjusted years of school
resulting in 600,000 Shillings to 1.1 million Shillings lost earnings per
person per year.
Learning adjusted years of school is a tool that helps to
reveal the real outcomes learners are achieving considering factors like the number
of years of school an average child can expect to achieve by her 18th birthday
and what she or he learns, based on globally harmonized test scores.
Up to now, the Ministry of Education is still
tight-lipped on the school reopening planning leaving all stakeholders in the
dark on what is going to be done when schools reopen. However, ministry
authorities have noted that the school reopening and recovery plan will soon be
available to the public.