“At home, there is not enough time to revise class notes”

Senior 4 candidate shares her story

By Catherine Ntabadde
girls education, education, adolescent girls, covid-19, covid19, coronavirus, school closures
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Emorut
01 October 2020

Christine Manuella is excited. The 17-year-old from Adjumani District in northern Uganda cannot hide the joy on her face. She is happy that on 15 October 2020, she will start school again after President Yoweri Museveni’s announced that schools were to re-open for candidate classes.

A Senior 4 candidate, Manuella says that it has not been easy to revise class notes or even concentrate while at home.

“At home, there is not enough time to read or revise books as I am expected to help with house chores like digging, fetching water, cleaning the house and toilets, and cooking. It is much easier to read and concentrate at school,”

says Manuella.

Manuella is looking forward to resuming her classes, and interacting with her friends and teachers. She is confident that the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the closure of learning institutions in Uganda on 18 March 2020, will not deter her dreams of becoming a physiologist. At her school, Mungula Secondary, Manuella says they have handwashing facilities and are able to wash their hands. She adds that she received a mask from the Government of Uganda, which she will wear at school to protect herself and fellow candidates from COVID-19.

She explains that while at school, they revise their lessons in the evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. as per the school schedule. In addition, she does individual reading from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. At home where she stays with her elder sister, Manuella tries to read every day from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

“This is the only time I have to read and concentrate. I read notes that were given to us by our teachers. Sometimes I attend the television lessons, especially for the science subjects like chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and also English."

girls education, education, adolescent girls, covid-19, covid19, coronavirus, school closures
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Emorut

I can’t attend all the lessons because I have other things to do. I miss out on some lessons for history and Christian religious education,”

she says.

Manuella’s village in Unna is not yet connected to electricity. Her sister installed solar power which the family is using to watch TV. During the TV lessons, Manuella says she makes notes and revises them in the morning, adding that some teachers teach at a fast pace, making it difficult to take notes for all the lessons.

She is confident that when she starts school again, she will pass her Senior 4 final exams. “I always concentrate in class and summarize my notes. I know I will pass the exams. The notes I wrote down from the TV lessons have also been helpful,” Manuella says. 

Asked how she has managed to remain focused during the COVID-19 lockdown, Manuella says that the knowledge she acquired from her school’s Girls Education Club and advice from schoolteachers have been helpful. During the club sessions, Manuella says they are taught how to become more confident and to protect themselves from early marriage and teenage pregnancy.

The education clubs were established in 68 schools by Trailblazers Mentors Foundation (TMF) with UNICEF support and funding from the David Beckham Foundation through the United Kingdom National Committee for UNICEF. The David Beckham Foundation funding benefits 63 primary schools and five secondary schools; 18,667 adolescents in school and 1,890 out-of-school adolescents.

Manuella says she learnt how to dig and interact with community members through the education clubs, which empower them with a variety of skills. During the lockdown, Manuella volunteered to clean water sources and roads in her community, something she would not have done if she hadn’t become a member of the club.

In order to avoid early sex, early marriage and teenage pregnancy, Manuella says that her teachers advise pupils to always focus on studies and not become trapped in marriage because the future lies in education.

“That advice stuck in my mind and it is keeping me focused. One teacher told us to always be students wherever we go and that means no indulging in scenes or activities that will divert us from our studies. My sister, my mother and my friends at school, they all speak to me and encourage me to be strong despite the challenges that I could face. I also listen to radio where women and religious leaders remind us to focus on our books so that we become successful,”

she explains.

TMF’s Mapendo Sharon notes that each of the schools they support have five mentors who stay within the villages conduct sessions and home visits, giving the girls hope and encouragement.  

UNICEF Adolescent Development Specialist for Gulu Field Office, Sammy Poro, reveals that Adjumani District has been supportive of the different initiatives undertaken by UNICEF through implementing partners to promote and empower adolescents. He adds that the girls empowered with UNICEF support have been linked to other structures within the district for more guidance, counselling and support.

Manuella advises fellow girls to be patient because at the beginning of 2021, all schools will be opened for them to continue their education. “Girls should wait and desist from actions that will lead them to pregnancy and early marriage. Once you become pregnant, life can never be the same,” says Manuella.

To parents and guardians, Manuella appeals to you to support your children, speak to them freely and provide for adolescents’ basic needs. When girls are cared for properly, they are less likely to be lured into activities that are harmful to their well-being.