Our COVID-19 Response
On March 18th President Yoweri Museveni announced that all Ugandan schools, universities and other learning institutions would close for thirty days to protect educators, pupils and their families from the novel coronavirus. Five months later, schools in Uganda still have not reopened despite growing pressure from some citizens and international organizations to do so. Over 9 million primary school children remain out of school, and there is increasing concern about the long-term effects of the extended school closure on learning outcomes and dropout rates, especially among female students.
Village TEACH COVID-19 Response
At the onset of the pandemic, we began to investigate whether Elevate’s Village TEACH program—which empowers communities to leverage local skills and expertise to improve school quality—might have additional benefits for rural communities during the COVID-19 school closures. Our recent impact evaluation indicates that Village TEACH reduces student dropout and transfer, and increases teachers’ willingness to invest their own resources into the schools where they work—exciting results that our local partners believe are result of improved communication and cooperation between historically disharmonious groups in rural communities.
In early June, we interviewed 88 head- and deputy head teachers from Elevate’s partner schools to explore their distance learning experience. Respondents came from three predominantly rural counties in Mukono District; forty-two respondents from our treatment schools and 46 from control schools.
|Subcounty||County||Number of Responses|
*Elevate programming is implemented in these subcounties
What we learned
Rural children are not being reached by national remote learning programs.
Despite the existence of national remote learning policies, children in rural areas are at risk of fall- ing behind in their education while schools are closed to the majority of students and additional systems must be put in place to support them.
The school shutdown has elevated the risk of learning loss and student dropout.
The primary school completion rate in Uganda during normal times is only 30%. With this addi- tional barrier, it creates an even greater risk that an entire generation of children are going to be left behind.
Parents need support to keep their children learning while they remain at home.
The MOES acknowledged that the success of at-home schooling would depend on “the support and participation of parents.” However, many parents struggle to support their children because they have to leave the household for work, they do not understand the study materials them- selves, or they cannot afford the materials their children are supposed to be using.
Elevate designed and implemented an intervention to equip parents with the tools to prevent learning loss and reduce long-term dropout as a result of extended school closures.
In August, our team trained 106 community members at 7 partner schools in Mukono District. At the training, Elevate led guided discussions exploring the value of education and why keeping children learning and engaged with their schoolwork is of utmost importance during school clo- sures.
With these values in mind, we helped parents to generate ideas about activities to keep kids learning during the shutdown. After the training, parents returned to their communities to establish village education networks to put these ideas into practice.
In partnership with Twaweza East Africa and Bishop Willis Core Primary Teachers’ College, Elevate is implementing a Positive Deviance program in 6 districts in Eastern Uganda, designed to unearth and amplify local solutions to complex education challenges. In March, schools were shut down and our original program design was put on hold.
In response, we restructured the program to meet the pressing education needs now facing the region, while children remain out of school. First, we conducted a survey to learn about unique strategies that parents, teachers, and local communities are using to continue engaging children in learning.
Building from the initial results, Elevate is hosting a weekly radio program where parents, school leaders, and community members share their experiences during school closures and how they are helping their children continue to learn. These broadcasts will provide listeners throughout the region with contextually-appropriate and impactful steps that they can take in their communities to support learners during this time.
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