The reopening of Ugandan schools presents renewed and urgent challenges due to the ongoing issues weighing down education.
As Ugandan schools are reopening, the persistent issues that have been weighing down on education are presenting renewed and urgent challenges.
In the past two years, The Conversation reports how Uganda saw the longest period of school closures at 22 months, with 15 million children having been out of school.
Beyond the alarming fact students in the country suffered a predicted learning deficit of 2.8 years, school closures also resulted in multifaceted disadvantages due to longstanding inequalities that were aggravated by the loss of education.
These include side-effects congruent with gender, socioeconomic background, and location — with historically underserved demographics suffering disproportionately.
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That said, here’s what you need to know about the issues caused by school closures in Uganda, what’s being done about it, and what’s next for education in the country.
Challenges to education in Uganda
The sudden disruption of the schooling structure in children’s lives, which largely determines their safety and learning, meant a severe disruption in their homes and in the labor market.
Although schools are planning to reopen in Uganda, the overwhelming ill effects of the loss of education will make it almost impossible for many school-age children to simply jump back in.
Aside from the delay in education, there are also many intersecting issues that compound to keep children from learning. As mentioned in the report above, the severity of these effects varies according to gender, socioeconomic background, and location.
These include a 15% rise in child labor, a 22% rise in unwanted pregnancies among school-age girls, a higher incidence of domestic violence, and deep feelings of anxiety and distress among children.
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Girls are impacted more in these issues, which comes as a major setback, especially as women have been making significant progress in education, even outperforming men in the Uganda Certificate of Advanced Education in 2020.
Finally, there are persistent faults within the school infrastructure itself. These include very little access to truly free education, high dropout rates, low learning outcomes, and lack of employment opportunities even after the completion of education.
Potential solutions to education challenges
Educators, government entities, and private organizations are now hard pressed to provide solutions that will bridge wild deviations in education between students of the same level.
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One such solution is a structured pedagogy approach that accommodates each child’s unique learning needs. Structured pedagogy is a modified classroom practice that is characterized by variation according to the community’s needs.
It’s a systemic change in educational content and methods, providing key elements that cohesively support quality education. These include adequate learning materials per student, and continuous training and support for teachers to sustain quality.
This is a model that Bridge Uganda implements in their curriculum, basing the structured pedagogy model on decades of research. As a result, their students have an unbroken record of success in the end-of-school PLE exams.
Another potential solution to this is the follow-through of the Quality Assurance Framework, as discussed in the Ministry of Education and Sports’ 2019 publication, ‘The Quality Assurance Framework for Initial Teacher Education in Uganda’.
The proposed framework seeks to establish practices in teacher training institutions to maintain quality — with the intent of guiding the widespread implementation and monitoring of the quality assurance framework for teacher education in Uganda.
Steps taken towards this goal include mandatory internal moderation procedures, standardized program and course development procedures, and the assessment and monitoring of academic activities.
In the meantime, it will be important to provide logistical and emotional support to protect children’s physical and mental well-being amidst the grave negative impacts of school closures.
Development partners are integral to supporting the safe reopening of schools by bridging the funding gap.
Among those who’ve contributed to this are the UK and Ireland, which have partnered with UNICEF to promote sustainability in school re-openings within the country.
They have extended monetary resources to support surveillance for emerging COVID-19 cases in schools, and mental health and psychosocial wellbeing training to help teachers and children readjust.
What’s next for education in Uganda?
The government of Uganda has made preparation to facilitate the safe reopening of schools. UNICEF Representative in Uganda Dr. Munir Safieldin remarks that the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) has issued guidelines for the reopening of educational institutions and the implementation of COVID-19 standard operating procedures.
These guidelines provide actionable points for observing maximum safety to prevent disruptions due to outbreaks as children return to onsite classes.
The issues that are plaguing education in Uganda are numerous and multifaceted. In addition to ensuring the physical safety of children as schools reopen, the government must tackle persistent societal issues that impede the quality and access to education.
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