Call for the reopening of schools in Uganda

ZOA Uganda signed, together with 24 organizations a joint statement that calls for the reopening of schools in Uganda. Currently, the schools are still closed due to fear for the COVID-19 pandemic, the schools are already closed for several months. More than 15 million children are forced to stay at home. 

Decades of experience and research have taught us that when children are out of school for prolonged periods of time, their exposure to physical, emotional and sexual violence increases. Their mental health deteriorates. They are more vulnerable to child labour, teenage pregnancy, child marriage and less likely to break out of the cycle of poverty.

In our work throughout Uganda, we see all of this happening right now. In addition to education, schools provide a vital protective role to learners. Since they closed, the number of calls made to the 116 National Child Helpline has increased by around 70%. We are seeing rising numbers of out-of- school children doing dangerous work in quarries, markets and mines; and girls increasingly forced to sell sex for cash, food or even sanitary materials. Adolescents are not getting information about reproductive health, and pregnancy and child marriage is increasing. We are seeing a deterioration in the mental health of children who are out of school, unable to socialise with their friends and uncertain when this will change; and increased domestic violence by parents who are stressed by growing poverty and children confined to home.

Despite efforts to continue home-based learning, most children are not learning effectively during this period and are being left behind. The current situation is exacerbating inequality in society, with many children – especially the poorest and most vulnerable – still not having received study materials and unable to access radio, TV or online learning.

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Despite efforts to continue home-based learning, most children are not learning effectively during this period and are being left behind. The current situation is exacerbating inequality in society, with many children – especially the poorest and most vulnerable – still not having received study materials and unable to access radio, TV or online learning.

Re-opening schools and learning institutions can also be a tool to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Many children at home still do not have adequate information about the virus and how to prevent it. Schools are where children learn these practices most effectively – and then replicate these to the rest of the household – and teachers can be trained to ensure that children have information about, and practice, thorough handwashing, no touching, personal hygiene and other vital measures.

The call of the organizations that joined together in writing and presenting this statement is to reopen the schools and to think of measures that can be taken in order to do this in a safe way. Interested in the complete statement? Click here!

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