RESPONDING TO COVID-19 IN UGANDA
With support from Education Cannot Wait, Save the Children is distributing home learning kits and extending educational opportunities through innovative radio programmes to provide refugee girls and boys – and host community children and youth – ongoing remote learning opportunities.
Stories from the Field
Special Contribution by Save the Children. View Original.
As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates in many parts of the world, Education Cannot Wait investments implemented by Save the Children in Uganda are working to reach refugee girls and boys with innovative remote learning programs. Schools are still closed in Uganda – possibly for the remainder of the year. For these vulnerable children and youth, life-saving education and health awareness materials are essential in keeping children safe, extending learning and slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Over half of the primary school refugee children in Uganda have yet to receive home learning materials, highlighting the need to expand the global education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For girls and boys like Priscille, Ronald and Kato,* education and continued learning are provide hope, safety and opportunity in these tough and troubling times.
Getting back to school is 15-year-old Priscille’s biggest wish.
She is in her final year of primary school, at an age when many girls in her community often drop out. In late March all schools in the Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Western Uganda, closed as part of prevention measures against Covid-19.
“Imagine… I am in P7 (the seventh and final grade of primary school). As a girl, I am very proud to have reached this class,” says Priscille. “This virus should stop so that I can sit the Primary Leaving Examination since many girls cannot make it. This makes me happy and keen to complete my studies!”
Through Education Cannot Wait’s education in emergency COVID-19 response, Priscille received a new home learning kit from Save the Children. The study books will help her keep learning while she’s at home and the schools are closed.
Priscille and her family fled to Uganda to escape the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. She now lives with her parents and four sisters in the vast refugee settlement.
The family doesn’t have a radio, but she’s heard about the Covid-19 outbreak from listening to her neighbour’s radio and from the community awareness sessions being held in the settlement.
When she heard about the importance of washing hands, she installed a handwashing facility at the family home.
As part of the ECW-funded response, Save the Children will be providing some of the most vulnerable families in the refugee settlement with radios, so that they can listen to information and education programmes – and stay entertained while stuck at home.
“I will listen to music over the radio to make me happy,” says Priscille. “I will also look for stations that are conducting lessons, as reading alone is very hard.”
At home Priscille reads as much as she can while keeping up with the daily chores like cooking, fetching water and washing clothes.
Every day Ronald and his three brothers all gather round the family radio and listen for the latest news about the Covid-19 outbreak.
He knows from the radio that the virus can be deadly and how it can spread in the community. “The virus spreads through handshaking, sneezing and coughing in public. Our people do not fully follow the President’s directive on social distancing,” he says.
At 13 years old, Ronald is in his last year of primary school. He’s Ugandan and his community in western Uganda has received a lot of refugees over the past few years.
At home Ronald encourages his family and friends to keep distance as much as possible. “Children should maintain social distance everywhere and wash their hands with soap every time!”
He’s looking forward to sitting his Primary Leaving Examination this year, but the schools were closed in late March as part of the Covid-19 prevention measures, and he has been at home ever since.
Ronald reads as much as he can at home, “but it is challenging without guidance.”
“The children should be given books and supported to learn from home,” says Ronald’s father.
Working closely with the local government, Save the Children provided Ronald with learning packs that included study books with exercises designed for each grade of primary school. Together with the radio programmes, these distance learning materials are helping keep Ronald and other children like him from falling too far behind during the lockdown.
Ronald’s mother and father are at home due to the lockdown, along with their eldest son who is normally away at secondary school, and the father says they will support Ronald and the younger ones to study the materials.
Meet Brenda and Kato
Brenda is a teacher in Rwamwanja refugee settlement, where more than 70,000 refugees now live.
With schools closed due to Covid-19, Brenda is determined to ensure that children keep learning at home during the lockdown. With support from Education Cannot Wait, Brenda and other teachers are distributing these home learning packs and child-friendly information about the virus and how to stay safe.
Every day she walks miles around the vast settlement, visiting some of her most vulnerable pupils at home to answer their questions and give one-on-one support, which is allowed under government guidelines.
Kato, 15, is in his fifth year of primary school and one of the children to have received a home learning pack. Just before school closed he borrowed a science textbook and has also been using that to read.
Brenda frequently visits him to check in on how his studying is going.
“I’ve found it easy to do the tasks provided in my learning pack because my teacher has guided me on how to use the textbook to answer the questions in the pack,” says Kato.
Kato looks forward to the day when schools will reopen. “Learning at school is better than at home as sometimes we are disrupted by housework!”
ECW funding also supports teachers in sharing broadcast lessons on Nyumbani FM – the only radio station in the settlement.
Kato says his father owns a radio and lets him listen to the daily sessions. These have also helped him learn about the virus. “I first heard of the measures to prevent Corona through the radio, and from my parents and community leaders,” he says. “So I make sure I collect enough water to wash my hands.”
Learn more about Save the Children’s ECW-supported investments in Uganda.
Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.
*The names of the children featured in this story have been changed for their safety and protection.