After nearly two years of closures – the world’s longest school closure – Uganda reopened schools this week, sending millions of students back to the classroom.
Windle International Uganda (WIU) provides access to education for 242,003 learners (21,266 are in early childhood learning centres, 208,166 are in Primary school, 11,327 are in Secondary education and 813 in vocational training centres). WIU also provides scholarships for 431 learners in Ugandan universities.
While the reopening of schools is an opportunity to return to face-to-face education for many, there is concern from WIU and its partners that the learning lost during the 83 weeks of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to high numbers of students dropping out of school completely.
Andrew Omara, WIU’s Acting Executive Director, said: “We welcome the reopening of schools this week and the return to classroom-based learning for students from refugee and host communities alike. Children from these communities are already disadvantaged when it comes to education, having had their schooling disrupted by conflict and marginalisation. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an additional blow.”
“We are pleased to be continuing our work with the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Education and Sports, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other partners to ensure refugees and host communities can continue to access quality education and training across the country” he added.
With closure of all schools and other learning institutions, WIU adopted the small group learning initiative which adhered to COVID-19 SOPs to ensure continuity of learning in preparation for school reopening. Small group learning is a method of teaching whereby small groups of learners meet on a regular basis with their peers and teachers to engage in learning activities. To support this initiative, WIU procured and distributed home learning materials developed by Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) and National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) to ensure continuity of learning amidst the closure of schools.
The teachers in the supported schools in refugee settlements were trained on on effective methodologies of handling small groups, child protection and safe guarding, learner centred approaches and inclusive education. This was done to ensure teachers are in position to conduct follow-up visits and support individual learners to utilise the materials provided while observing standard operating procedures to prevent spread of COVID-19. Teachers were also provided with over 600 bicycles so that they could move more quickly and easily across the vast refugee settlements to distribute learning materials.
Radio lessons were also delivered. The radio lessons were conducted by trained teachers in the four examinable subjects of Mathematics, English, Science and Social Studies in Primary 4 to Primary 7. Altogether, 170 hours were utilized to conduct the lessons across the Settlements that targeted 37,260 learners (18,393 F and 18,867 M).
Students pursuing Tailoring and Garment Cutting at the Nakivale Vocational Training Center (VTC) undertook produced 104,000 masks in November 2020. Through this initiative that was supported by UNHCR, learners were able to earn money while making masks.
Windle International Uganda will continue to work with partners to ensure the gains lost in refugee education due to the pandemic are recovered.