UGANDA’S schools have reopened to students, ending the world’s longest school disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Students poured through school gates on Monday, greeting teachers and friends after 83 weeks outside the classroom.
The reopening caused traffic congestion in some areas of the capital, Kampala, and students were seen carrying their mattresses in the streets, a back-to-boarding school phenomenon not witnessed for nearly two years.
The East African country of 44 million people first shut down its schools in March 2020, shortly after the first coronavirus case was confirmed on the African continent.
Some classes were reopened to students in February 2021, but a total lockdown was imposed again in June as the country faced its first major surge.
The closures affected at least 10 million primary and secondary pupils, according to the UN’s education and cultural body UNESCO.
Limited virtual schooling
Many students returning to school are believed to have had no help during the lockdown.
Most public schools, which serve the vast majority of children in Uganda, were unable to offer virtual schooling.
Some critics pointed out that the government of President Yoweri Museveni did little to support home-based learning.
Museveni justified the lockdown by insisting that infected students were a danger to their parents and others.
Welcoming the reopening of Uganda’s schools, Save the Children warned that “lost learning may lead to high dropout rates in the coming weeks without urgent action,” including what it described as catch-up clubs.
The aid group warned in a statement on Monday of a wave of dropouts ‘as returning students who have fallen behind in their learning fear they have no chance of catching up.’