By LaChance Pickett
Can you imagine being out of school for two years? Sadly, that has been the case for most students who attend public schools in Uganda. When the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit Uganda in March 2020 all schools went in full shutdown and reopened their doors about two weeks ago – January 10, 2022. According to the United Nations Cultural Agency, the two- year shutdown is the longest disruption in the world and affected approximately 10 million students. The pandemic has had a negative impact on most sectors, and people of all walks of life but in Uganda young girls have been disproportionately affected.
“We cannot do business as usual; the COVID-19 pandemic has created a crisis within a crisis for adolescent girls, the country has recorded an increase in the number of girls who have become pregnant during COVID-19 lockdowns,” says Dr. Edson Muhwezi, Assistant Representative, UNFPA Uganda.
In 2019, Africa Development Promise launched the Girls with Dreams program which provided activities during the school breaks. Students usually get a 3-week break after the first and second terms, and a 7-week break after the third term. The goal of the camps is to create supportive learning environment where girls feel welcomed and valued. But besides focusing on their personal growth, it is important for the girls to have an outlet to just have fun.
When the first lockdown was lifted, parents expected their children to go back to school. Then the government imposed a second lockdown and after that was lifted schools remained closed. To support the girls in the Girls with Dreams program we extended our program to offer wide variety of activities focused on academics, computer literacy, career awareness, indoor and outdoor recreational play, health, and wellness, and developing positive social networks. The girls attended workshops on goal setting, dealing with peer pressure, communication, service to the community, and public speaking. In addition, Africa Development Promise partnered with Women in Technology, Uganda (WIT-U) so girls can participate in coding boot camps and partnered with CINELAB to teach the girls how to Vlog.
An important component of the program includes Sister Circle. We have sister circle in the beginning and at the end of every session. It is a relationship building, group sharing and problem-solving program component that help girls learn to share the problems they face in a safe space and explore ways to address those problems.
It will be a long time before we understand the full impact of the school closure but at Africa Development Promise, we supported 23 girls who are now returning to school. Many of them were worried that their parents would not be able to pay the school fees but thanks to a generous ADP board member, all the school fees were paid. We wish the girls continued success in the coming year.