As schools in Uganda prepare to reopen after a prolonged period, the UK and Ireland have partnered with UNICEF to support two key activities which aim to support safe and sustainable reopening.
According to a press statement, the focus will be on school-based surveillance for early identification, reporting, and management of emerging COVID-19 cases in schools, and the secondary focus will be on mental health and psychosocial (MHPSS) wellbeing training to support teachers and children to readjust.
The UK has provided £450,000 (Shs 2.1 billion) to UNICEF towards the initiative. In addition, Ireland has provided Euro 1.8 Million (Shs 7.2 billion) to UNICEF for the overall government school reopening strategy, a portion of which is used for school-based surveillance and MHPSS in the Karamoja region.
The initiative has been prioritized by the government under its School Re-opening Strategy, and it will be implemented jointly by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Health in districts and schools across the country. The training is covering all schools in the country.
Speaking at the opening of the training, Kate Airey, British High Commissioner to Uganda, said: “I sympathise with my Government of Uganda colleagues who have had to make really difficult decisions over the last two years. I, like all Ugandans, was relieved when the Government announced schools would be reopening on the 10th of January. Regaining the ground lost will not be easy – and ensuring this is essential not just for our children on an individual level, but to ensure Uganda’s economic development,” she said.
The UNICEF Country Representative, Dr. Munir A. Safieldin said: “I share UNICEF’s respect for all head-teachers and teachers present here. Others can support, but only you can keep the schools safe and ensure that children receive the quality education they need and deserve. We are aware that there are many challenges, and your task at the forefront of this effort is among the most difficult. However, if anyone can make this happen, teachers can. The future of a generation of children, and the future of the country, is in your able hands.”
Cormac Shine, Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of Ireland, said: “Ireland is proud to support Uganda’s efforts to safely reopen schools, and implementing effective surveillance is crucial to ensure a safe learning environment for students and staff alike. Along with our development partners, Ireland remains committed to supporting education in Uganda, and the safe reopening of schools is a landmark achievement after a challenging few years.”
The initiative will result in up to 40,000 schools nationwide (both public and private) being capacitated via district officials to effectively track and manage COVID-19 cases and support students and teachers on re-entry.