My interest in their progress was based on the recent education ministry efforts to ensure children continue with learning through different delivery channels such as radio, digital and home reading materials.
Recently, I made calls to my relatives in Ngora to ascertain if my nephews and nieces were engaged in any sort of learning since schools closed in March.
My interest in their progress was based on the recent education ministry efforts to ensure children continue with learning through different delivery channels such as radio, digital and home learning materials.
To my surprise, I learnt that they were mainly engaged in providing labour in the family garden, which is okay if the age is appropriate and given the state of our rural economy.
However, they still needed a chance to open their books to revise and their parents were oblivious of their role in aiding their learning. Even with the small radio available, it was clear that this was not accessible to the children and nor did the parents know the learning hours on the radio or think of the impact of their children not learning. Printed materials had not yet reached the community either.
The parents were resigned to the fate of schools being closed and are waiting for the re-opening. Even if the parents wanted to get involved, they have literacy and numeracy challenges. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) 2017, three out of 10 people aged 10 and above are not literate, so many parents would not help even if they wanted.
An immediate remedy in such circumstance is for parents to liaise with older siblings or children in higher classes within the community to support the young ones. The leadership of schools’ management committees and Parents Teachers Association and headteachers must take a keen interest in children’s learning within the home settings.
Despite my cousins living less than a kilometre from the school which their children go to, they had not been visited or engaged by any local leader. These structures must be reoriented to play a key community support role in children’s learning from home.
Engaging children in family labour output as a way of buffering income and food security may be to the detriment of the children in the long run. My niece’s mother is more concerned with the girl honing her cooking skills for the future (to be a good wife who can cook).
It is critical, therefore, that we challenge these gender-assigned roles since they reinforce certain cultural beliefs which constrain children’s learning.
Digital tools to facilitate learning are being utilized in relatively affluent homes. However, my nephew John and thousands of other children in rural and informal urban settlements are being left out. Let us do our part to ensure continuity in learning.
ChildFund and other agencies alike are working to support the processes of ensuring learning continuity for children from home. Harnessing this partnership is critical in tackling constraints to learning.
The writer, Moses Otai, is the Country Director of ChildFund Uganda