Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, access to quality learning opportunities for all was a huge challenge in Uganda. The current education is inadequate in preparing learners.
The pandemic exacerbated challenges for learners especially for girl and children with disabilities. This challenged learners, educators and stakeholders to innovate and forge new partnerships to support learning. In many respects, success has been limited. Many students face a greater risk of falling behind and/or abandoning learning. The pandemic has highlighted important obstacles and areas for growth in expanding access to education for all through creative use of technology in learning and teaching. As
Ugandans continue to adapt to living with the pandemic, but are also beginning to focus on recovery and building back better, there are opportunities. There is an opportunity to build an engaging, meaningful home-based learning (outside traditional physical classrooms) that puts learners in the centre of learning and includes various resources in the community. This can particularly benefit at-risk learners; girls out of school due to teen pregnancy and students with disabilities.
The teenage pregnancy is 25% in Uganda. In June 2021, Save the Children observed that girls who fall pregnant in Uganda, often drop out of school, as government guidance requires them to withdraw from when they are three months pregnant until six months after giving birth. Many of them struggle to
return to school at all due to barriers like social stigma, lack of childcare or financial support. During the COVID-19 lockdown, girls are experiencing increased risks; some have got pregnant and are not likely to return to school when the lockdown is lifted.
Students with disabilities
Approximately 16% of children in Uganda have disabilities; with 5% accessing education through inclusive learning and 10% through special schools (World Bank 2020). Learners from poor and rural families with
autism, mental health, multiple impairments (hearing and visual, etc.), physical impairment, face additional challenges getting to schools and normally dropout early. These learners have been disproportionately affected by school lockdown as they have no access to supports and parents are usually ill-equipped to sustain and/or support their learning. The Uganda National Curriculum Development Centre developed an inclusive learning package for learners with disabilities but it remains incomplete and undistributed. Home-based learning presents an opportunity to expand learning opportunities for these students and enrich their home based care programs.
The Covid-19 pandemic has struck at the worst of times. Consequently, many students are stuck home with little or no guidance. Home study materials have been produced by the government but they offer no opportunities for feedback and support from peers. TV programs produced by the government have fallen short of providing a sustained learning structure. It is difficult for learners to follow programs consistently.
Online studies instituted by schools as short term interventions are expensive (costing as much as $20/month), which is way above even a middle income parent could afford. Teachers upload class notes to school websites, while others share them via WhatsApp. These notes lack explanation, and the continued reliance on social media not only poses social challenges but also expose learners to risks associated with unsupervised internet access. The time has come for the parents, teachers and community to take control of their learning through strong networks and collaboration that support a combination of home and online schooling.
The expensive and dysfunctional education system together with a failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need to create resilient learning communities and spaces, through a combination of online schooling and home schooling. This project seeks to nurture such a community, providing high quality but affordable learning to learners in Uganda, using content and learning resources developed by Ugandan educators. The project will develop learning resources, develop teachers’
capacity to teach effectively online and offline, as well as develop an online platform to support the process.
This e-Learning project will bring together educators and stakeholders (industry, parents and government) to create a home-based learning secondary school program primarily to support at-risk learners. The project will make learning more enterprising, relevant to learners and inclusive of community experiences.