By Ason Joel Lwanga
When the president of Ugandan declared a total lockdown of the state in 2020, cases of domestic violence and sexual assault went on a rise. Girls and women were affected the most. The closure of schools exposed them to sex offenders and predators. Poverty was on a rise and this greatly led to many cases of domestic violence because everyone was home.
Police reported 4,442 cases of defilement between the months of January and April 2020. The first total lockdown had caught everyone unaware and the situation was hard for teachers too as Miss Amina Nagujja, the head teacher of Lugazi progressive SS Kikawula narrates to this website.
“When school resumed, our biggest challenge was helping students pick interest in books again because during their stay at home, our students don’t come from well off families so they never got exposed to television to see if they could learn from TV, they did not access school materials even when we advertised asking them to come for some educating handouts from school, they never showed up.” She narrates.
“The advantages of having money could clearly be seen because students from well-off families could access school materials, online coaching and their schools had different programs.”
Amina says that after spending almost a year at home, two came back to write their exams after giving birth while those who were still pregnant refused to show up with fear of being laughed at by fellow students. They experienced the highest levels of dropouts as 184 students of the 230 class returned to sit for their senior four examinations.
“Many of the students that came back could not even construct a sentence in English. The experience we got is the same as that when we are handling a senior one student. People laughed at our performance when results came back, but they did not know the status of our parents and their children. Many of them could not recall their index numbers. There was a saga of students copying their friends’ index numbers. All that mattered to them was writing exams and getting over it.” She said
“We used to ask those who reported back about their fellows and they always replied with a laugh. That meant that the other student was either pregnant or a mother already. We kept on asking them to return so that at least they could write their final exams but all efforts were in vain as only two pregnant students reported back.” She added
As for the teachers, some could not return because we did not invite them, others did not return because life during the lockdown had pushed them to deeper villages while others had started other businesses and teaching was no longer an option.
“One teacher had ventured into chapati making business and according to his calculations, he was saving enough. He told us he was saving ug shs.20,000/= a day and had found a job that granted him time with his family and a peace of mind. Some teachers had gone to their villages because life had become so hard during the lockdown.” She recalls
Amina revealed that one thing they came to accept was that students could only be tamed at school. Before the lockdown, students had revealed that they only interacted with their parents at night. School also protected them from the outside world.
“After they came back, we had to do so much counseling for the students to fit in school. They had become adults. Very exposed to things useless at their age. We had to always remind them of their purpose in life. They had gone off-track and it was our duty to remind them that they were still boys and girls not women and men.” She says
“We were surprised with the behavior of the students we had considered to be humble from day one. They had become wild. Since they had taken long without keeping in one place, it was very hard for them to be controlled. We were always repairing fences as the number of students escaping had risen.”
She says that the fact that most of the students were coming from Lugazi, a busy business center, some students had got job opportunities while others had ventured into farming with their parents.
“There was a scenario where one of our students forgot to show up for a paper because he was in a garden. We had to fetch him from there. Students had got overwhelmed with home work.” She narrated
“Right now, we are worried for the senior two students. They had just returned to school before the second lockdown happened. Remember the senior two students are at the age of active adolescence. I think they will be a bigger challenge compared to those of senior four and six. Besides the heavy dropout, the levels of indiscipline will be high.
Mr. Fred Ssebyala (not real name) popularly known as teacher Fred of Nankanja Primary School, Universal Primary Education school in Mityana resorted to farming after the first lockdown in 2020.
Fred who stayed at the teachers’ quarters and started farming at the school garden when the pandemic fell says that he prefers continuing life as a farmer then going back to class.
“With Farming, I always get enough time for my crops, my harvests are good and I have no pressure. Am also glad that I still receive my monthly salary from the government.” He said
He also revealed that school furniture is being taken as firewood by people surrounding the school.
desks and classroom doors are taken by unknown people. The metallic doors were also stolen.
The classrooms are now lovers’ hideouts. People have sex from there. Also young people take marijuana from the classrooms. The school compound is used for grazing animals.”
He adds that it will take much money and time for the government to renovate the school.