Uganda, Aug. 2021: Students Strain Under the Pandemic

Greetings to all our friends and supporters in the REACH for Uganda community.

It has been almost 18 months since the first cases of covid-19 were reported in Uganda. For a country that has dealt with major cases of HIV, Ebola, and other viruses, the playbook was familiar – close borders, restrict movements, enforce masking, and set up treatment centers where infected people could be evacuated to and treated.

The country was quick to apply these measures. All schools were closed in March 2020, public transportation restricted, and meetings of more than 5 people banned. Even local markets where people trade wares and buy food were closed. These steps significantly limited the spread of covid-19. By the end of 2020, less than 1,000 people in the country had succumbed to covid19. Positive cases remained in the low tens of thousands. With low transmission rates, the country started a phased re-opening early this year.

It did not last. The feared Delta variant reached Uganda around May this year, and the country was put on lockdown again. Students who had just been allowed into schools were sent home again. The same restrictive measures were reimposed, but this time much more punitive than before.

The second lockdown, much like the first, has had a devastating impact on our children and our Uganda community. With limited access to online studying, our children have fallen behind in their schoolwork. At primary school, while teachers have worked hard to provide schoolwork to children at home, the lack of face-to-face classroom interaction has seen many of them struggle. For students in secondary school, it has been worse. Our students have been stuck at home, unable to access the internet for lack of computers and wi-fi or data. Their families have fallen on hard times as they struggle to feed and take care of the children at home. Poverty in our villages has grown. Many children have lost interest in school. The most devastating impact, however, has been on our girls. In the last year alone, 21 of them have gotten pregnant, a number that is 10 times what we experience in normal years. While REACH has a policy of allowing all pregnant girls to continue with school after delivery, we know for sure that many of these girls, especially those who have gotten married, will not continue with their education. Some girls, and boys, have simply run away in the face of poverty at home.

Our Uganda team has worked hard during this covid lockdown to account for every child and provide support, whether in the form of food, resources, time, or just psychological help. We know that our interventions have helped. Many girls who could easily have run away from home have stayed with us. We provide sanitary pads to every girl on our program who needs it. Families have been kept together as we continue to provide food and other resources to the most vulnerable. Most importantly, our team in Uganda has developed some online learning resources for those kids who can access it. About 36% of parents who have smart phones can access and downline these programs for their children. Those who don’t have smartphones walk to school to get hard copy materials.

But we need more help to continue to provide for these kids, especially those that are most vulnerable. A few of our sponsors have already responded and sent in additional donations. If you can, we ask that you do the same. If your family has recently received a child credit check you don’t absolutely need, or your own resources can allow you to set aside a small monthly amount, we ask that you make a special monthly donation. We are grateful for your support, and at this time, even more grateful for the additional assistance that will help us overcome the impact of covid-19. We are in this together.

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