BY MICHAEL TUMWESIGYE
The shock of the COVID-19 crisis on education like any other sector has been unprecedented. Education losses in Uganda have not spared any level of education from preprimary to secondary schools, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions and universities. The
future of an entire generation is at stake and if the damage inflicted on education due to school closures is not repaired systematically, we are likely to witness a generational catastrophe. The question we ask is, are the damages repairable? Yes, I believe it’s possible. Our main purpose
should be to enable all children to return to school safely and to a supportive learning environment, which also addresses their health and psychosocial well-being and covers up academic losses and other needs. It is the responsibility of our government to conduct education reforms, so that, not only will the children and youth regain their promised future, but all education stakeholders find their role in making it happen. This demands ensuring safety for all from the pandemic, adequate financing for education and strengthening the resilience of education system that is flexible, equitable and inclusive. The most important issue is to first suppress transmission of the virus and plan thoroughly for the second schools reopening to avoid history repeating itself. Since conditions of safety are more difficult in Uganda’s schools context because of overcrowded classes and without basic infrastructure and services, more
budget allocation to education will be needed. Support should be provided
to all government schools, including private institutions. The reopening of education institutions should be inclusive. We need to ensure that education system addresses the vulnerabilities and needs specific to boys and girls in times of crisis. Harmful gender norms and economic pressures on households should not prevent girls and the least advantaged learners from returning to school. To address academic losses, an assessment to estimate learning gaps should be conducted to guide remedial and accelerated learning programs as a way of academic catch up. In a chat
with Mr. Mutebi JB, the head teacher
“There is no need
when many of the
rural students and
pupils are off the
electricity grid and
do not possess
of Lohana Schools, “children have outgrown their classes because of the
pandemic. Therefore, learners need to be promoted to classes they are
supposed to be in and continue with normal syllabus work; then promote
remediation learning through activities like home work, lower classwork tests and discussion groups.” The Ministry of Education and Sports
(MOES) needs to structure learning activities based on accessibility model.
There is no need to prioritise televised lessons when many of the rural students and pupils are off the electricity grid and do not possess TV sets. Learners in Urban centers, though not all, are able to attend televised lessons and some can download materials from National Curriculum Development Centre website, which is not the case with their counterparts in rural areas. Supplying hardcopies to learners in rural areas will
ease their learning. When institutions reopen, teachers should teach using methodologies that help in quick academic catch up, for example, remedial lessons, remediation and accelerated academic programming. It’s also time to promote homeschooling. The MOES may need to go an extra mile and send training manuals to parents on homeschooling and accompanying activities. The system can further encourage older learners in higher classes to assist young ones. The pandemic has been an eye opener because it has exposed our weaknesses. Lack of information at Ministry level for evidence based interventions, technology skills gaps by teachers and learners,
countrywide digital divide, poor internet and electricity connectivity,
have all surfaced as great inhibitors to education. We need to position
ourselves to cope with similar future crises. The pandemic crisis has brought a deeper understanding of the digital divide and related equity gaps, which require urgent attention. We need to remove technological barriers by investing in digital infrastructure and lowering connectivity costs. It’s a necessity to ensure that children have better access to the internet, stronger parental support and greater availability of learning materials. This calls for professional development and retooling of our teachers to meet the current global trends. It’s time to get updated or get outdated and phased out of teaching. The government may need to revise
some of its inhibiting policies, for example, the ban on the importation
of second hand computers not until access to digital learning tools has
been improved. The President’s proposal of buying a TV set for every
village and a radio for every family can further be refined and come up with a model of Community Learning Centres where one can access technology tools for education. One of the major challenges for
development in Uganda has been data and monitoring of learning
and utilization of data for decision making. This is a function of Office of the Prime Minister which seems to be overwhelmed by current data,
monitoring and evaluation needs. Managing the education crisis requires
a continuous monitoring of data at the student, teacher and school levels. We need to increase investments in education in form of grants to help poor parents with school fees, support school proprietors struggling with
loans, upskill teachers and the wider workforce, as well as new technologies to deliver education in new ways; this can get us back on track for achieving SDG 4, without which none of the other SDGs can be achieved.
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