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Youths Call for Equitable, Sustainable Education Options amidst Pandemic

Jacob Eyeru, the Chairperson of the National Youth Council says that instead of making alternatives to education accessible to young people during this crisis, the government chose to increase data fees which cut off some young people from accessing the internet.
Youth Rights Advocates in a chitchat after the Press Conference

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Youth Rights advocates have blamed the government for impeding young people’s access to information. They note that while young people would access most of their reproductive health information at school,  education institutions are now closed, yet alternatives like the internet are unaffordable to many.

Jacob Eyeru, the Chairperson of the National Youth Council says that instead of making alternatives to education accessible to young people during this crisis, the government chose to increase data fees which cut off some young people from accessing the internet.

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Eyeru says the government needs to come up with a sustainability strategy for education that even if a pandemic hits for as much as five years, all young people can continue studying equitably. 

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Students have been out of school for more than a year since the pandemic hit Uganda in March 2020. While the government initially tried supplying reading materials to learners, this programme was unsustainable that some schools embarked on online learning for their students. 

Youth Rights advocates say this hasn’t been equitable and yet they don’t see schools reopening soon considering that the government is tagging re-opening to COVID-19 vaccination with no guarantee of when the jabs will be accessible to all students.

Amidst this uncertainty, Allan Kinani, a Policy and Advocacy officer at a youth-led NGO Reach a Hand Uganda says teenage pregnancies are increasing with some getting infected with HIV too.

“Already, we know from Ministry of Health figures that by the age of 19, 25 per cent of Ugandan teenage girls have become pregnant. Around 49 per cent marry before they turn 18. We don’t have the latest figures for the previous year but anecdotal data is already showing an increase. Young people don’t have information”.  

By the time of the initial lockdown last year, he says they were still pushing for increased access to health information by young people noting that the Adolescent Health Policy that was still being discussed by the Ministry of Health has since stalled. Also, the National Sexuality Framework that had just been launched didn’t see the light of day as sections of it were opposed by religious leaders. 

Kinani now urges the government to finalise all pending policies to enable young people to freely access information. He also calls for the reopening of youth-friendly spaces where young people can comfortably access sexual and Reproductive Health Information.

However, by the time of the lockdown last year, most of these youth-friendly spaces especially youth corners in public hospitals were being phased out because of non-use by the target audience. For now, Kinani says the NGO has come up with a free platform that doesn’t require one to have a smartphone or internet to access information. 

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