Update on Uganda

Dear Friends of REACH,

Just as in the US, Uganda is now confronted with how to reopen schools safely for students, teachers and administrators.  The government closed all schools  and sent students home in mid-March, but they are now considering if and how to reopen them.  It is a bit more complex in Uganda as virtually all secondary and tertiary schools board their students.  Many student dormitories are large rooms with 50-60 students in 15-20 triple deck bunk beds.  The eating halls are similarly crowded.  To its credit, Uganda has identified only about 1,000 cases of Covid-19 infection, and experienced only 2 deaths from the disease, out of a population of almost 43 million people.  

We at REACH are awaiting a decision from the Ministry of Education whether to reopen the schools and try to fit almost a year of academics into the final 6 months, or to close them permanently for the year.  We have contingency plans under both scenarios.  In the interim, our teachers and administrators at Arlington Junior School are continuing to teach the students by developing lessons and delivering them to the students’ homes (walking or by bicycle), and then collecting and grading them two weeks later when they deliver the next set of materials.  For our secondary students, we are collecting their lessons off the radio and television and delivering these materials to those students who do not have radios and televisions.  We will continue this effort until the Ministry makes its decision.

If the Ministry decides to call of classes and make 2020 a “dead year”, this is a great opportunity for us to transform our educational delivery mode and fully embrace e-learning technologies and techniques.  This would include training for our teachers in integrating lessons from the internet with our classroom instruction, e.g., smart panels, upgrading our library and computer laboratory, and accelerating our computer skills courses.  We have been considering this step for more than 5 years, but could not find the time between school terms and the money from cost savings at the school to implement it.  Now we may have it, and it is a very exciting prospect.

Please know that we will keep you apprised as we move forward.  Obviously, safety is our principle concern, and this pandemic time may have a silver lining during an otherwise difficult time.

Please also know that we sincerely appreciate your continued support, and know that we will stretch your funds as much as we can and make sound investments to ensure a quality education for our 800+ students, life-saving healthcare for our 2000+ patients each month and enhanced communities for the villagers.

Thank you,
Dick Burk, 
President, REACH

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