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Our COVID-19 education interventions only favour the wealthy

By Prof. Anthony Muwagga Mugagga

Added 17th June 2020 11:12 AM

Our COVID-19 education interventions only favour the wealthy

Prof. Anthony Muwagga Mugagga

OPINION

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as a country, we have registered astounding results. For example, we have not registered any known death related to COVID-19. We thank God for that. 

To stop the spread of COVID-19, the Government announced different measures in March. Among these was the closure of educational institutions, imposing a night curfew, among others. 

All the measures have worked excellently. However, the some interventions during the lockdown seem to raise some challenges: 

For example, the COVID-19 education interventions are all skewed towards the affluent/elite and Uganda's middle class. For example:

i) National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) home learning packages/materials, mainly distributed through newspapers, which cost between sh,1000 and sh2,000. 

ii) Radio and television programmes for the candidate classes, which are presented during day when the rural poor are in the gardens;    

iii) Parental assistance and guidance. This would imply that all parents with children at school irrespective of level of formal schooling are supposed to provide some degree of pedagogical assistance to their children.

Unfortunately, approximately 50% of the rural women who mainly stay with the children are illiterate, but even those who are fairly schooled cannot cope with the dynamic school curriculum.

Schools sending WhatsApp messages to their students. This is a preserve of the urban elite. Most rural people have simple non-touch phones; 

Securing email addresses for their students. All the internet cafés both in urban and rural areas were closed. Students cannot print out what is sent to them on email, thus favouring the elite who have these facilities in their homes, among others.

Online sources at https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/uganda/indicator/  indicate that Uganda's rural population makes up 76.23% as of 2018. 

This greater percentage of Uganda's population is served by the schools at the peripherals of the Ugandan education ladder.

The low/third world and average/middle class schools, which have no computers, let alone the personnel to keep in the school to implement the above or monitor the state of the learners online. 

There are three general school categories in Uganda:

i) The purely government-owned schools

ii) The private but government-aided schools 

iii) The purely private-owned schools.

These three are further categorised into three major classifications:

i) The elite/first world or affluent schools: 

These are mainly located in urban and peri-urban area. If at all located in a rural area, they have no major connection with their neighbourhood, in which case the percentage of the children from their neighbourhood in most cases is 0.5% or even none. They are mainly boarding schools. These could be either private or denominational government-aided secondary schools.

The best examples are Namilyango College, St. Henry's College Kitovu, London College of St. Lawrence, Ntare School, Uganda Martyrs S.S. Namugongo, St. Mary's Kitende Boarding Senior Secondary School, St. Mary's College, Kisubi, Mt. St. Mary's College Namagunga, St Marys College Namagunga,  Gayaza High School, King's College Budo, Seeta High Schools, among others. A replica of these schools is seen in early childhood care and elementary schools. These schools house the children of the elite and well-to-do who are approximately 23.77% of Uganda's population. 

ii) The average/middle-class schools: 

These hinge between the elite and the very low-quality schools. They are mainly day and boarding schools found both in the rural and peri-urban areas. They serve the children of middle-income earners. These are mainly either government-owned or aided, or private but poorly managed.  These mainly house children of the elite and middle-class who fail to cope with the academic rigour in the elite schools.

iii) The "low/third world schools: These are mainly day rural schools with no clear learning structures and, in most cases, are operated with no official registration but are known by the responsible officials. In most cases, these schools lack the basic or Uganda Government school minimum requirements such as proper physical structures, disaggregated toilets, among others. They have no functional school management committees (SMC)or board of governors (BOG) These are home to the children of the poor, who are 76.23% of Uganda's population.

It should be noted that Uganda's elite and middle class have access to over 95% of all the "quality" schools in the country. During this pandemic, these schools have performed very well as far as making realistic interventions in teaching and learning is concerned, while those with a poor clientele have had no intervention at all. The success of these institutions is very much dependent on the financial resources at their disposal. 

The writer is the Ag. Director Institute of Education Research, Makerere University College of Education and External Studies

 

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