Worry as school closure erodes learning culture – Daily Monitor

A pupil struggles to read a task during an assessment exercise in Pukuca B Village, Acaba Sub-county in Oyam District on August 27. PHOTO/BILL OKETCH
Thousands of children in Oyam District are quickly forgetting the learning culture amid the closure of schools over Covid-19 pandemic, an assessment shows.
The challenge is compounded by lack of a supportive environment and resources to support home-based learning.
Before the pandemic, children would learn basic behavioural traditions along with academics at school. During church services, faith leaders would also speak about child protection and parenting issues. However, with churches now closed, parents are finding difficulty controlling children at home.
Following the closure of schools, the ministry of Education instituted home-based learning via television and radio, and distributed print revision materials.
However, thousands of children in Oyam have no access to these.
Ms Candy Alum, the coordinator for the Uwezo in Oyam District, told Daily Monitor on Friday that their ongoing annual learning assessment for 2021 shows that most of the children, having stayed long at home, have forgotten every culture of learning.
Uwezo, which means ‘capability’ in Kiswahili, is an initiative that aims to improve competencies in literacy and numeracy among children aged 6-16.
“You find even a Primary Five child cannot count one up to five. I don’t know if they have just forgotten but it is observed that they seem to have forgotten everything in the class, we are still moving on with the assessment,” she said.
Mr Emmy Zoomlamai Okello, the executive director of Foundation for Inclusive Community Help (FICH), a local NGO in Oyam, said: “One thing we are foreseeing is that the culture of learning is going to be ignited afresh in the lives of the learners.”
Daily Monitor also observed the assessment of three learners on Friday.
 Sitting on a plastic stool under a citrus tree, 12-year-old Fiona Akello failed to read in her mother tongue.
 The Primary Five pupil revealed that they are only taught in English at Atipe Blessed Primary School – a private school located in Acaba Sub-county.  Akello also found difficulty in pronouncing names of things, animals, places and persons.
During the household learning assessment at Pukuca “B’ Village on Friday, Mr Francis Oleke Ocero, the Oyam District education officer (DEO), was shocked after Akello failed to read a story task.
Akello admitted that she only learned how to cook, dig and collect firewood during this period.
 Rachael Adero, 10, a Primary Four pupil, was only able to read the first five letters of the alphabet.   Adero said she has only learned how to prepare alcohol during the lockdown.  
Mr Oleke said the assessment showed that “all the three children did not have any kind of learning at home during this lockdown.”
He said it will take time to bring the children back to the mood of learning because “the learners have been exposed to a village kind of life where they are free to do anything they want”.
Mr Oleke also said that not all the pupils will return to school after the lockdown.
“As I talk now, there are some girls who were married off. We have some boys who have also taken on some businesses and I’m afraid they might not come back even if the schools are reopened tomorrow,” the DEO said. 
Ms Josephine Among, a mother of six school-going children, said many households are finding difficulties in keeping children at home.
 “If I don’t prepare alcohol and sell it, I cannot put food on the table,” she said. 
Background
Government closed institutions of learning for the second time in June when president Museveni instituted a second hard lockdown following a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Following the lifting of the lockdown, only medical schools were cleared to reopen. President Museveni said reopening for other learners would be decided after sufficient vaccination of teachers and students above 18 years has been achieved.
Officials say the country has started experiencing signs of the third wave of Covid-19
The bank has since mounted efforts with security agencies to recover funds from an undisclosed number of implicated agents

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