Uganda ended the world’s longest school closure on January 10, 2022, by ordering millions of students back to the classroom nearly two years after learning was suspended because of COVID-19.
Students returned to schools closed since March 2020 when COVID-19 swept the globe.
“I am so happy because I was missing school, my teachers, my friends and my studies,” 10-year-old Nawilah Senkungu told Agence France-Presse (AFP) at Nakasero Primary School in Kampala, where teachers encouraged students to wear masks and wash their hands.
Education Minister John Muyingo said all primary and secondary students would resume classes a year above where they left off.
“All schools have implemented guidelines and standard operating procedures to ensure the safe return of children to schools, and measures have been put in place to ensure those who don’t comply do so,” Muyingo said, according to Taarifa, a Rwandan news service.
Despite those assurances, some parents have been cautious in the wake of continuing infections. A week after the reopening, some schools were below 50% of regular enrollment, according to The Independent of Uganda.
Some administrators say parents held back to avoid paying school fees until they could be assured of their children’s safety. Dovicko Kisembo, head teacher at Mubuku Valley Secondary School in Mubuku town, told The Independent that many parents were concerned that authorities would announce another lockdown because of rising COVID-19 cases.
Muyingo has said that any school demanding fees above prepandemic rates would be sanctioned.
The closures affected at least 10 million primary and secondary pupils and lasted 83 weeks, according to the United Nations’ education and cultural body, UNESCO.
Nawilah spent the long closure tending chickens and digging the fields on her grandparents’ small farm.
“I am very happy to see my children back to school,” her father, Siraj Senkungu, told AFP. “They have been missing their teachers plus learning.”