It is no secret that the pandemic had an effect on the education sector all over the globe. For a country like Uganda, the after effect is enormous.
Despite the fact that the education sector in Uganda has normalized with an averagely good number of national and international schools fully open and functional, there’s an unfortunate number of children that are supposed to be in school but are seen loitering the streets.
There's an alarming number of young girls getting pregnant and dropping out of school, cases of some teachers changing their jobs to run other businesses for survival. By the time schools opened, the student to teacher ratio was worrying. Other children that were still in school at the time the pandemic hit had also adapted to other hobbies rather than school. They'd been distracted by different things: money, entertainment etc.
Most families with meager incomes, which is actually the highest population in the country; just couldn't afford to take their children back to school.
Years ago, in its efforts in availing education for everyone, the government of Uganda introduced Universal Secondary and Primary education, where students can access school without having to pay for anything. (free education). With this in place, one would assume, ease in access to education, but unfortunately, it did come with a number of challenges too.
Low salaries for teachers, overwhelming numbers of students per class, poorly resourced schools etc.
As of December last year, different research scholars reported that more than 20% of the children in 3rd world countries were most likely to drop out of school permanently due to various factors, some of those brought about by the pandemic effect.
Sadly, this has come to pass because it is evident in Uganda today, yes a good number of students are back in school but at the same time, a bigger number of those that are supposed to be attending school are not.
We spoke to one parent, a drop out and the headteacher of a nearby school in Masanafu, a kampala suburb in Wakiso district.
Hajjati Aisha shared that her children are already moving around the neighborhood vending samosas and mandazi as she remains at her stall to sell charcoal.
“I can't afford to feed them, provide rent and still pay for their school fees, their father left me. This is all I can afford to give them.”
A 16 year old Matovu Bosco working at a Rolex stall shared how he felt that he is not in school, and if he'd like to return.
“When schools opened, it was very hard for me to focus. I attended for one term and told my parents that I could not manage. All my best friends at that time had dropped out. It was very hard for me to fit in, so I left. I don't envy my former classmates though. I am glad I am not wasting my parents money.
Mr Kironde(real names withheld upon request), the headteacher of a community primary & secondary school in Wakiso District commented that there’s nothing much they can do for the children that did not return to school.
He also commented on the hiked school fees prices after COVID “The school needs the money to pay teachers, acquire different education resources, food etc. The amount we charge is the lowest in the neighborhood to give most locals an opportunity to afford it for their children.”
When one takes a tour around different kampala’s most busiest places; arcades, malls, downtown, etc the number of young children vending merchandise on the streets is alarming. The looks of their faces communicate that they are really young teenagers who are supposed to be in school attending class.
Not mentioning how diverting this exposure to the real world at a younger age can be. Most of their time is spent looking for easy short term means to survival; betting, alcohol, drugs, robbery. Young girls are subjected to materialism, they're lured to give into trading their bodies off for means of survival.
With the country’s largest population occupied by the youths, Uganda is likely to face a high criminal rate in 3 to 5 years as a result of lack of access to quality education.
We call upon different stakeholders to join hands and find solutions to uplift families and students post pandemic. The Ugandan government needs to discuss post covid recovery strategies for schools and families, to enable children and parents to bounce back strong.
As Lenoir Foundation, we are sponsoring a number of children in a community in Nansana to acquire a quality education. These numbers will eventually evolve as we get more resources.
Lauren Hill once said In my travels all over the world, I have come to realize that what distinguishes one child from another is not ability, but access to education, access to opportunity, access to love.
Children in struggling countries like Uganda need that education, opportunity and love or the future generation is doomed.