Uganda opened its schools yesterday for the first time in nearly two years. It’s the longest school shutdown of any country in the world. Though students, teachers, and parents are excited for school to begin again, many students won’t be returning.
Schools in Uganda closed soon after the coronavirus hit in March, 2020, and have remained closed for 83 weeks. Though schools in some areas opened again last February, they closed again in June. But now that most teachers have been vaccinated, Uganda’s schools are opening once more.
Students, teachers, and parents are all excited to have schools open. Students are eager to be going back to class. Parents are happy to have their children out of the house for a while, and getting an education. “I am really excited because it’s been a long time without seeing our teachers,” said student Joel Tumusiime, speaking to the BBC. “And we have missed out a lot.”
Students really have missed a lot, and many people worry that they will struggle as school begins again. During the shutdown, the government provided some lessons on radio and TV. But since many homes don’t have computers and some don’t even have electricity, only children from wealthy families were able to have remote classes. Over half of Uganda’s 10 million students haven’t had any classes at all since March, 2020.
Teachers say many students were already behind when schools were closed. Now, all students are being moved up a grade, even though they haven’t been in school. Schools will focus on teaching the most important areas in order to help students catch up as quickly as possible. Still, teachers worry that many students will have difficulty and may drop out.
There are already far fewer students returning. Money is one reason. Elementary (primary) school is free in Uganda, but families have to pay for high school. Because the pandemic caused problems for businesses and factories, too, many families no longer have enough money to send their children to school.