Uganda is ranked among the top 20 countries with the highest number of days of full school closures specifically for lower primary and nursery schools between March 2020 to October 2021.
This is according to Data from the UNESCO Global Monitoring of School Closures Caused by COVID-19 Pandemic report (2021).
Over 15 million learners have since been home. However, this has come with mental health challenges and without guidance, there could have irreversible effects.
The closure of schools has no doubt affected livelihoods, but among them, children being among the most affected.
Florence Daisy Athieno a mother of three school going children revealed she started noticing changes in her children after eight months of school closure.
“Because of the Covid-19, many children have been refined to their homes and so children are not allowed to interact with each other. Before the closure, my kids were healthy happy kids, but now, because they have played almost every game they know, watched every cartoon they know, they have resorted to over eating, sleeping, they are no longer confident bubbly girls,” Athieno said.
Dr. Amir Kabunga, a psychologist at Makerere University said Covid-19 is considered a traumatic event, and because of its nature, children have been mentally affected.
Lucy Banura Mugume, a teacher with years of experience in teaching little children says the signs of poor mental health may not be visible but there are clearer indicators of mental distress in children.
“Their sleeping patterns begin to change. They sometimes have nightmares. For children who were potty trained, you will notice that maybe, they will have toilet accidents,” she said.
Mugume said the school environment plays an important role in shaping the mental development of children who might otherwise not get help from home.
Shamim Nirere, Team leader at Izere Education a social enterprise dedicated to transforming learning and skills development for young people, said while it was understandable for government to close schools, contingency plans should have been put in place to ensure the right to education for children to compete favourably on the global market.
Nirere said: “Government has tried but I feel like there is more they can do to open schools. There is absolutely no reason as to why they should continue to remain closed.”
Martin Kiiza, the executive director, National Children Authority said they have tried to help the children by sensitizing parents about their roles right from the grassroots. In spite of their busy schedules, parents, have been urged to create time to nurture their children.