School at last
Learners return to class after prolonged COVID-19 school closures
It is a great and exciting time in Uganda. After nearly two years, pre-primary, primary and secondary schools reopened on 10 February 2021 - one of the longest school closures since the COVID-19 pandemic - to the excitement of learners, their teachers, parents, and caregivers.
UNICEF with funding from UKaid and Ireland is supporting the Ministry of Education and Sports to ensure safe reopening of schools through various initiatives like orienting teachers and head teachers on school-based surveillance for early identification, reporting, and management of emerging COVID-19 cases in schools, provision of psychosocial and mental health support to children as they settle back in school as well as provision of water, sanitation and hygiene materials to support handwashing with soap and water – a critical component of the standing operating procedures required for safety in schools.
UNICEF captured and shares highlights from a selection of schools as learners across the country reported to school.
The school gates have opened for learners to return to school. To contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease, schools have put in place Standard Operating Procedures including handwashing facilities with soap and clean water. At Katabi Primary School in Entebbe, pupils must wash their hands before entering the school premises. This will keep their hands free of germs and the virus.
Additional handwashing facilities have also been positioned within the school compound. The teachers are available to support the young ones wash their hands effectively. UNICEF has provided handwashing facilities in select schools to support this simple but critical practice that contains the spread of the virus.
Safety during learning! As schools reopened, teachers prioritized safety of the pupils and themselves to support effective learning. In addition to handwashing, other safety measures like regular sanitizing, wearing masks and social distancing have been introduced. With those in place, the pupils are ready to learn, and the lessons have begun.
For girls, the risks of being out of school outweighed those of being in school. Many were affected by the school closures. To ensure girls realize their dreams, they need to be supported to return to school. As Nabukenya Florence 12 years arrives at her school at Kamuli Nursery and Primary School, Kira Division, Wakiso District, she shares -
“It feels better coming back to school. I missed my education while away from school. I was learning on TV but sometimes the teacher was fast, and I could not understand some work. While away from school I missed learning and I missed my friends. I am not sure what to expect. I pray they don’t close the schools again. To ensure safety, I will be wearing my mask and I will wash my hands regularly.”
It is lunch time at Buganda Road Primary School, Kampala. Before schools closed, many children relied on school meals. With school closures, many missed out on the nutritious food served as the pandemic affected the livelihoods of their families. Reopening of schools means they can enjoy regular meals while they learn.
It’s all smiles. What a joy to return to school! For the younger ones, play and interaction is part of learning. They missed this key component, critical for their growth and development while schools remained closed.
Children with special needs at Ntinda School for Deaf in Kampala could not wait to return to school. They catch up with their peers while enjoying the swings during break time on day two of school reopening.
Rose Atim (L), 10 years, a primary four pupil at Getom Primary School in Katakwi District walks back home at the end of the third day of schools reopening. Rose says she is happy to return to school because there is too much manual labour at home. I am also happy that by studying, I will continue to achieve my dream of being a teacher.
" I am happy to come back to school because many people have not made it back to school due to several challenges - pregnancy, finances, domestic violence and others. While at home I missed my teachers’ mentorship. At school they teach you how to live your life in any circumstances, they mentor us to move in the right way. Parents don’t give you enough mentorship because they are always at work. My fear is hearing about another school closure. I pray it never comes. Just thinking about it gives me goose pimples. I pray it never happens again. COVID-19 is here with us and we must learn to live with it. So, no one is supposed to tell you to wear a mask or wash your hands. It is now the new normal. You abuse the Standard Operating Procedures, you are calling for another school closure which we don’t want,” Kharunda Sarah S.61 Arts Bishop's Senior Secondary School, Mukono.
Excited to be back to school, adolescent girls enjoy a snack during the mid-morning break.
“Schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen,”