Supporting return to school efforts in Uganda

Mar 29, 2022

Students attending class in Bukere Primary School, Kyegegwa District

Kyegegwa, Uganda. Bukere primary school turned into a hive of activity as more than 2,000 children arrived for a new day in school. Some went straight to class, while others played in groups outside. Laughter, excitement, and a sense of belonging drew them together with one desire: aspiring for a bright future.

After two years of school closure, Justus Bahati, the head teacher, expressed his optimism of being back. "I was happy because I was going to meet my children and staff members back in school. I was afraid that some children will get married, some will start jobs and not want to come back to school," he said.  

Before schools re-opened, Justus, fellow teachers, and a group of community mobilizers were part of a team that worked hard to prepare for school re-opening in Kyegegwa and Lamwo refugee hosting Districts.

Mentally preparing teachers

Before the schools reopened, teachers like Ahura Brian were wondering how it would be to return to school. "Some teachers had lost interest in teaching because they were doing different kind of jobs," he said. To support them in getting ready to go back to teaching, PlayMatters organized a three-day psychosocial support training for 420 teachers from the refugee and host community schools, in support of the Ministry of Education’s broader back to school campaign. Some of the topics covered included:

  • Ways of promoting safe, engaging, and friendly re-integration of children in schools using learning through play
  • Strategies of promoting wellbeing of teachers and children as they return to school  
  • Identifying children’s unusual behaviors and handling challenges related to learning loss, stress, and others for both boys and girls
  • Using learning through play facilitation techniques to help create a fun learning environment that can promote retention  

Reminding parents to take children back to school

Alongside the teachers’ psychosocial support training was a coordinated effort to rally parents to take their children back to school. A community mobilization team comprised of 280 representatives from school and refugee welfare management committees was formed. Some walked from home to home talking to parents and their children. Others joined radio talk shows, and others used boda bodas (motorcycles) with megaphones airing return to school messages.

Providing students with books, pens, pencils

The harsh economic times during the COVID-19 pandemic meant that some parents could not afford basic supplies to get their children started in school. In response, PlayMatters distributed books, pens, and pencils, to 17,500 children in Kyegegwa and Lamwo districts.

120% increase in enrolment

Before the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, there were 1,818 students enrolled at Bukere primary school.  "Today, have a very big enrollment of 4,047 which requires us to have two shifts. One in the morning, and another in the afternoon." said the head teacher. According to him, this can be partly attributed to the support by PlayMatters in preparing teachers for re-opening, mobilizing parents to send their children back to school, and providing scholastic materials to children which is motivating them to remain in class. 

Read more about PlayMatters in Uganda here 

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