Government programme to have learners study at home after the closure of educational establishments due to COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda, has failed to yield positive results in some parts of Hoima District.
Some parents complain that government is distributing inadequate learning materials unable to cover all learners while others say that they do not have radio sets-the least expensive and flexible electronic medium that can be used in a non-electrified rural setting for their children to study through airwaves.
Ms Margaret Birungi, a mother of four at Kihenda Village in Butema Parish, Buhanika Sub-county says that ever since government closed the schools, her children have never consistently been studying because she neither has a television nor a radio set after missing out on the learning materials.
Fearing that her children could lag behind in education, Ms Birungi says she sometimes takes them to neighbours who own radio sets although she does it irregularly due to other pressing responsibilities she has to fulfil at home.
“This academic year isn’t good to us who don’t have TV and radio sets in this village. This year, all my four school children have not benefitted academically. Though I take them to neighbours who have radio sets to help me, sometimes I fail and feel bad because my children haven’t learnt anything,” she says.
Adding: “Now, do you think that my child who has never studied anything will be counted in the learning group? If I am given some learning materials, it might help but it requires some little money to inject there yet I don’t have it. Worse of it, most of the lessons have been missed.”
Mr Jovita Kaija, the Kifumura primary School Management Committee (SMC) Chairman in Buhanika sub-county, agrees that there is a vacuum in the distribution of learning materials to the area.
He says such an unwavering scantiness has rendered parents impatient, thus, giving up with the programme.
Mr Kaija urges the Hoima District Local Government authorities to provide funds for photocopying the learning materials such that all learners in the sub-county can access them.
“Learners do not have time for studying. Even the learning materials being brought are few. For example, the whole village received only two copies. Kifumura primary school received one copy of learning materials for primary seven and primary six. Other classes did not get any copy. So, this is a problem. Though we urge parents to facilitate their children in the new ways of studying, they always tell us that they don’t have money and it is hard for them. It is true parents do not have money,” he says.
“It is true that education has deteriorated and both parents and children have gradually backed away. I request that after seeing the learning materials are not enough, immediately after reaching at the headquarters, the district authorities should photocopy them to have more numbers or provide some funds to the sub-county authorities for the same cause. It is true parents don’t have money and studying at home has gone to a wrong direction,” he adds.
Mr Jamil Kasangaki, the Buhanika Sub-county LC 3 Chairman, also says that it is hard for learners to study at home since parents are too poor to either buy radio sets or photocopy the learning materials for them.
In response, the Hoima District LC 5 Vice Chairman, Mr Frederick Kakoraki, says that the district does not have funds for procuring and distributing radio sets to parents neither for photocopying the learning materials to enable learners study at home.
He advises parents to sell off some of their harvested food crops to facilitate their children so they do not miss lessons on radio or the learning materials.
“Really, there are no radio sets. But there is a food harvest. One can sell off that food at a low price as it is to buy a radio set. It just takes one’s sacrifice to buy a radio set. You needn’t have millions of money at hand. Since there is a need for a child to study, a parent should endeavour to buy a radio set,” he says.
“If one strives to buy a cell phone, why can’t they buy a radio set for their children to study? Indeed there is income disparity, but let us prioritise our needs as we wait for government to distribute the promised radio sets,” he adds.