Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Some 15 million pupils have not attended school in Uganda since March 2020 when classrooms were closed when COVID-19 flooded the world.

Uganda ended the world’s longest school closure and ordered millions of students to return to the classroom after a gap of almost two years.

Some 15 million pupils have not attended school in Uganda since March 2020 when classrooms were closed when COVID-19 flooded the world.

Education Minister John Muyingo said all students would automatically resume classes a year above where they left off.

“All schools have implemented guidelines and standard operating procedures to ensure the safe return of children to schools, and measures have been put in place to ensure that those who do not comply do so,” he told AFP news agency.

Muyingo said any private schools that charge fees above pre-pandemic rates would be approved.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni lifted most of COVID-19-related restrictions in the country in September last year, but he closed schools.

He announced in October last year that schools will reopens early next year regardless of the vaccination intake, which is currently low.

The rush to return children to school blocked traffic in the capital Kampala on Monday.

Child rights groups have criticized Uganda’s decision to keep schools fully or partially closed for 83 weeks, longer than anywhere else in the world.

Uganda has recorded 153,762 cases of COVID-19 and 3,339 deaths, according to the latest government figures released on 7 January.

Ugandans have so far shown reluctance to be stimulated, despite President Museveni saying that “currently 4.7 million vaccines are available” with a further 23 million doses expected by the end of the year.

Challenges ahead

During the pandemic, many school-going boys entered the child labor market to work in mining, street sales, and sugarcane planting.

Students who adopted crafts to support their families through the pandemic and may not return to education. Other students are worried that they will never catch up on the schoolwork they missed.

According to the National Planning Authority (NPA), up to 30 percent of students are not expected to return to their school desks due to teenage pregnancy, early marriage and child labor.

Between March 2020 and June last year, the country reported a 22.5 percent jump in pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 24, according to data from UNICEF.

With their careers on hold, many teachers have also switched to other positions to help provide for their families.

Several institutions have converted to hotels or restaurants.

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