UNICEF and Partners support the printing and distribution of home learning materials to 2.5 million
Especially for children who don’t have access to technology to learn at home
Home learning presents many challenges to both parents and learners. Yet with the COVID-19 pandemic that created unprecedented lockdowns, schools in Uganda were closed and approximately 15 million learners were sent on an unparalleled program to learn from home. The majority of such children in Uganda don’t have access to online platforms to learn and many come from communities where opportunities for home learning are very challenging due to the lack of learning materials.
It is under this background that UNICEF with partners decided to change this narrative by supporting the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) to print and transport home-learning materials to approximately 2.5 million children. These learning materials have been made available to both primary and secondary school children, including refugees, from 48 districts with low education indicators.
Speaking at a ceremony to hand over these learning materials at Vision Group headquarters in Kampala, Dr. Doreen Mulenga, the UNICEF Representative in Uganda said that the printed copies are not only critical during school closures, they will also be useful in accelerating the pace of learning once the schools re-open.
The function was also attended by the Danish Ambassador to Uganda, His Excellency Nicolaj A. Hejberg Petersen. Vision Group was contracted by the MoES to print and deliver these materials to the districts.
The governments of Denmark, Ireland, and Norway, and with support from UNICEF UK and the Global Partnership for Education, UNICEF Uganda provided US$800,000 to MoES to print and transport these materials.
“The use of these paper copy self-learning materials for the most marginalized learners will enable children who don’t have access to technology to learn at home,”
Ambassador Petersen reiterated the need to address the challenges school closures presented. “Home-schooling is a very big challenge that these materials will now help address,” he said.
Mr. Alex Kakooza, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Sports revealed that the Global Partnership for Education has committed an additional US$15 million to print more materials to cater for all children in the remaining districts. “We hadn’t budgeted for COVID-19 so we are grateful to the partners for their timely support,” Mr. Kakooza revealed.
However, Dr. Mulenga emphasized that while these materials will support the continuation of learning at home, there is a need to make all possible efforts to re-open the schools to provide a sense of normality for children.
“As we plan for the re-opening of schools, we need to pay special attention to inclusive and equitable policies and practices, especially targeting most disadvantaged children including children with disabilities, children from the poorest families, children who live farthest from schools, and the girl child,”
She revealed that experiences from the Ebola outbreak have shown that vulnerable children may not return to school if special efforts are not made to bring them back. “UNICEF has been sharing tools, good practices, and experiences from other countries with the Ministry of Education and we encourage them to continue engaging all stakeholders at all levels,” Dr. Mulenga added.
The UNICEF Representative noted that COVID-19 has presented a silver lining to the extent that stakeholders are today talking about children and learning — not just schooling. “Schools not only teach children reading, writing, and arithmetic; they also provide nutrition, health, and hygiene services, along with mental health and psychosocial support while reducing incidents of violence against children, gender-based violence, and unintended pregnancies,” she said.
She added that discussions related to schools and education have exposed the reality that most schools lack even the minimum facilities required to ensure conducive, healthy, and safe environments. “As we prepare to re-open schools, we need to take this golden opportunity to build back better by imagining a future in which all children in Uganda will finally be able to take full advantage of everything the world has to offer,” she said.
Mr. Robert Kabushenga, the Vision Group Chief Executive Officer thanked the partners for solving the dilemma that was presented to both the parents and children when the schools closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.