Several Schools have dedicated the first week to offering counselling and change of mindset to enable learners to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Learners, across the country, are returning to school this week after 22 months of shutdowns which were effected as one of the measures to control the spread of COVID-19. Although some learners were studying online during the time, many others, especially in rural areas have not had any interaction with a teacher since the closure in March 2020.
Some learners have spent time vending fruits in trading centres, riding motorcycles, and working at construction sites, whereas others help parents in gardens and businesses, among other activities. Hundreds of teenage girls also gave birth during the lockdown.
Uthman Basajjanaku Lubega, the Headteacher of Luwero Muslim Secondary School says that it’s against such a shaky and gloomy background that schools are prioritising counselling for learners to enable them to overcome short and long-term emotional, psychological and physical challenges that came with the lockdown, and to refocus and concentrate on school activities.
Researchers have indicated that COVID-related trauma can have potentially severe consequences for students’ mental health: “Due to social isolation and adverse childhood experiences, there are concerns of suicidality, technology addiction, and school safety as schools attempt to transition to a state of normalcy in the months to come,” a publication by the US-based National Association of Secondary School Principals (NAASP) bulletin indicates.
Ronald Ndawula, the Director of Everest Schools in Luwero says some learners need to be taught again to appreciate education than the economic activities they have been involved in during the lockdown. He added that apart from counselling, they will spend the first-week sensitizing learners on how to prevent COVID-19 and managing it in case they contract it.
Robert Mugabe, the Director of Studies at Luwero S.S. says that they began the term by engaging in prayer to thank God for enabling learners to return to school.
Baker Ayella Sam, the Director of Studies at St Martin’s Primary School said learners need encouragement if they are to stay in school, while in the same vein, John Michael Okello, a teacher at Opar Primary School in Soroti district says it might take some time for learners to readjust to the school environment.
At Awoja Primary School in Soroti district, teachers have set up a restroom in anticipation for mothers likely to join the school. Philemon Michael Oriada, the Head Teacher of Awoja Primary School says they have put in place facilities that will accommodate children of young mothers as they attend classes.
The mothers and pregnant teenagers will also be allowed to rest in the same rooms whenever they feel uncomfortable in class.