Poor coordination, communication gaps, and disinformation have hampered efforts to encourage community-based learning during the ongoing school closures.
Teachers have been given permission by the education ministry to conduct in-person classes in socially isolated small groups of no more than 20 learners from their own communities. However, many people are unaware of the program, including district officials and parents.
Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the State Minister for Primary Education, explained in a recent interview with URN that the program has been allowed to be conducted under the supervision of the village Covid-19 task team and local police to ensure that normal operating protocols are followed.
However, David Ssengendo, the headteacher of Buganda Road primary school, claims that, aside from the Ministry of Education-approved self-study materials and radio and television lectures, he is unaware of any other purposeful arrangement for instructors to support learners.
Deborah Akiteng, a resident of Alengo village in Atiira sub county, Serere district, was likewise shocked when asked about the scheme, saying that there is no such program in their areas apart from radio advertisements telling parents of the arrangement.
Apollo Kaggwa, the secretary of education in Amuru district, told URN that community learning has yet to be implemented since the ministry’s rules are not properly understood.
Abraham Ekwaru, the Soroti District Word Officer, made a similar argument, claiming that they had not received any formal communication on the intended community learning.
Despite hearing about the scheme, Namugera Nkokonyole, the chairman of Kakookolo village in Luwero town, says he has yet to see any instructors or district authorities rallying the students. Local officials, such as Resident District Commissioners and police, have been agitated in other locations, arresting teachers who were engaging students.
For example, Sarah Babirye, the Entebbe municipal education officer, says that Deputy Resident District Commissioner Njuki Mbabali has been hesitant to approve the locations where the aforementioned learning might take place.
However, according to Njuki, the recommendations must first be reviewed by COVID-19 taskforce members, intelligence, and security professionals, which could take some time. “We’re still going over these recommendations to make sure our kids are safe while they’re learning,” Njuki said.
Francis Benon Tumwebaze, the Mbarara city education officer, further says that Resident District Commissioners in the sub-region are detaining teachers who are seen instructing, despite the fact that they are unaware of such a program.
In the municipalities of Mukono, Lugazi, and Njeru, private teachers have been conducting lessons covertly without the knowledge of the authorities in the districts of greater Mukono. Similar reports have come in from Kayunga, but the reaction has been weaker than in the other districts.
Only in Mukono has the District Resident Commissioner intervened to prevent police from assaulting and detaining teachers who were teaching at their houses. Kevin Nakato, a teacher at St Cecilia Lutengo, applauds the proposal, claiming that it will help students avoid layoffs and teachers earn a living.
Meanwhile, as government-led efforts fail, NGOs and development partners appear to be successful in using the same processes to provide hope for learning in specific areas. In Gulu, for example, the program has been implemented in ten gazetted residences and 12 elementary schools across the district.
Ballington P’Ongwech, the Secretary of State for Education, Health, and Community Services, claims that the initiatives have only been successful because of USAID’s assistance, which allows the district to provide allowances to instructors who conduct the sessions. P’Ongwech, on the other hand, points out that many parents are opposed to the initiative. He claims that many parents do not allow their children to go to the gazette center and instead send them to do other household chores.
Building Tomorrow, a non-governmental organization working with district inspectors, deployed 20 volunteers in a few sub-counties in Nakaseke district, according to Stephen Batanudde, the District Education Officer. Government teachers, on the other hand, have not been urged to participate in community programs until the bulk of them have been fully vaccinated, according to him.
“Allowing non-vaccinated teachers to interact with students in communities is unsafe. Our main goal right now is to vaccinate as many instructors as possible, and after that is accomplished, we will move on to community learning,” he says.
Community-based teaching was established to address inequity generated by prior projects such as e-learning and televised lessons, which were harmed by the technological divide and acute poverty. The program was adapted from the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, which had previously introduced it to refugee-hosting communities.