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Govts Community Learning Program Unknown to Parents, Teachers

The Education Ministry authorized teachers to conduct in-person classes in socially distanced small groups of not more than 20 learners, from within their localities. However, many people, including district authorities, and parents are not aware of the programme.
A teacher conducting a class in western uganda. NGOs and Education development partners like USAID have supported the programme in some areas. Photo by Covenant Mercies

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Efforts to promote community-based learning during the ongoing school closures have been frustrated by poor coordination, communication gaps, and misinformation.   

The Education Ministry authorized teachers to conduct in-person classes in socially distanced small groups of not more than 20 learners, from within their localities. However, many people, including district authorities, and parents are not aware of the programme.

In a recent interview with URN, Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the State Minister for Primary Education, clarified that they have authorized the programme to be implemented under the guidance of the village COVID-19 task force and local police to ensure that standard Operating Procedures are observed.

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But David Ssengendo, the headteacher of Buganda Road primary school says that apart from the self-study materials and the radio and television lessons that were sanctioned by the Ministry of Education, he has not heard of any other deliberate arrangement for teachers to support learners.  

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Deborah Akiteng, a resident of Alengo Village in Atiira Sub County, Serere District was also surprised when asked about the programme, noting that apart from radio adverts informing parents of the arrangement, there is no such programme in their communities.  

In Amuru District, Apollo Kaggwa, the Secretary of Education told URN that they have not yet started the implementation of community learning because the guidelines by the Ministry are not yet well understood.

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A similar argument was fronted by Abraham Ekwaru, the Soroti District Communication Officer, saying they have not received any official communication on the proposed community learning.  

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Namugera Nkokonyole, the Chairman of Kakookolo village in Luwero town says that although he has heard about the programme, he is yet to see any teachers or district official mobilizing the learners. In other areas, it has been frustrated by local authorities including Resident District Commissioners and police who have arrested teachers found engaging learners.

For instance, Sarah Babirye, the Entebbe Municipal Education Officer, notes that Deputy Resident District Commissioner Njuki Mbabali has been reluctant in approving the places where the said learning can be conducted.

But Njuki says that the proposals must be first considered by the COVID-19 taskforce members, intelligence, and security personnel which might take time. "We are still looking through these proposals to ensure our children are safe as they learn," Njuki says.  

The Mbarara City Education Officer Francis Benon Tumwebaze, also notes that Resident District  Commissioners in the sub-region are arresting teachers found teaching noting that they are not aware of such a programme.   

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In districts of Greater Mukono, private teachers have been conducting lessons secretly without the knowledge of the authorities in municipalities of Mukono, Lugazi, and Njeru. Similar reports have been recorded from Kayunga, where, however, the response is lower than the rest of the districts.

It is only in Mukono where the District Resident Commissioner had stopped police from assaulting and arresting teachers conducting lessons at their homes. Kevin Nakato, a teacher at St Cecilia Lutengo, welcomes the idea saying it will help pupils fight redundancy, and teachers to earn a living.

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Meanwhile, as government-led efforts fail, NGOs and development partners seem to be effective with the same systems giving hope of learning to selected areas.  For instance, in Gulu, Education Authorities have rolled out the programme in 10 gazetted homes and 12 primary schools across the district.   

Ballington P’Ongwech, the Secretary for Education, Health and Community Services says the efforts have only been a success due to the intervention of USAID which supports the district to pay allowances to motivate the teachers who are conducting the lessons. P’Ongwech, however, adds that many parents have not supported the programme. he says many don’t allow children to go to the gazette centre but rather send them for other domestic work.  

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In Nakaseke district, Stephen Batanudde, the District Education Officer says that Building Tomorrow, a Non-Government organization working with district inspectors deployed 20 volunteers in a few sub-counties to help pupils learn. He, however, noted that government teachers have not been encouraged to participate in community programmes until the majority of them are fully vaccinated.  

“It’s risky for us to allow non-vaccinated teachers to mingle with learners in communities. For us, our major target now is to vaccinate as many teachers as possible and once that is achieved we shall embark on community learning,” he adds.

Community-based teaching was initiated to bridge an inequality that had been created by other initiatives including e-learning and broadcasted lessons that were affected by the technology divide and extreme poverty.  The programme was adopted from United States Aid for International Development-USAID which had introduced it to refugee-hosting communities.