Status: 10.01.2022 9:58 a.m.
In hardly any other country have they been closed for so long: After an almost two year corona break, schools in Uganda are reopening. But many children will not return: In the pandemic, they have to support their families.
Almost 20 students count out loud when teacher Thomas writes on the blackboard with a piece of chalk. Roman numbers are on today. The teacher does not want to give his full name, because his lessons in a small shed next to his house are actually forbidden. “We hide here. In a real school we would have teaching materials on the walls. But here we only have the bare walls. The floor is not cemented, which means that the sand fleas can attack us,” he says.
Thomas is actually the director of a private school, but like all other schools in Uganda it has been closed since the outbreak of the Corona crisis. 83 weeks without lessons – more than in almost any other country in the world.
“Life is no longer good. We miss our friends, school, even our teachers,” says Mariam softly. The 13-year-old is one of the lucky ones who was able to attend the clandestine class during the lockdown. Most of the children in Uganda just stayed at home. Many had to work so that their families could somehow make ends meet.
Around 90 percent of ten-year-olds cannot read properly
“In sub-Saharan Africa, 87 percent of ten-year-olds could not read or understand a simple sentence before the pandemic. Today it is over 90 percent. We have a serious learning crisis that is now becoming a learning disaster,” said Abhiyan Jung Rana from the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF.
Schools in Uganda are now reopening, most of them freshly painted and repaired. But that’s not all. Student Mariam fears that she will never see many of her classmates again. “Some of my friends got pregnant, others now have a job or have married. They are afraid of coming back to school and the other students might laugh at them.”
Every third child is unlikely to go back to school
It is estimated that one in three children will never go to school again. Also because the parents can no longer afford the school fees. The pandemic hit Uganda. The economy collapsed, businesses had to close and their people laid off.
The teachers were also forced to look for other jobs in order to survive. “To get them back after two years, you have to retrain them first. So that they can teach again,” explains Filbert Baguma of the UNATU teachers’ union. Many will not return to the notoriously neglected school life. This means that the children who are willing to learn have even worse chances of getting an education.
“We shouldn’t talk about a lost generation, but rather make sure that all children come back to the open schools,” warns Abhiyan Jung Rana from UNICEF. “If they can’t learn, they won’t find good jobs and lose the chance of a healthy and happy life.”
School closure also has economic consequences
According to a current calculation by the Children’s Fund together with UNESCO and the World Bank, children worldwide are losing around 17 trillion dollars in life income due to school closings – with serious consequences for the economic development of their home countries.
Mariam is determined that this doesn’t happen to her. She is looking forward to school. “I’m particularly good at science. I want to become a nurse and help other people.”
Lost generation – Uganda’s schools open after almost two years of Corona break
Linda Staude, ARD Nairobi, 10.1.2022 9:10 a.m.