As Uganda awaits the president’s promise to fully reopen the economy in January 2022, experts, parents and religious leaders are calling for the immediate reopening of places of worship and learning institutions so that learners can have access to their faith leaders as well as get an opportunity to practice their faith.
This appeal was made during the weekly online Town Hall meeting that takes place every Monday on the Facebook Live Page called EndLockdownNow. This week’s theme was “Education and Covid19: What is the Way Forward”.
Schools and other institutions of higher learning have been closed since March 2020 following an outbreak of corona virus pandemic.
A report released by UNICEF indicated that world over, Uganda has closed schools the longest – now at 78 weeks.
It is important to note that most schools in Uganda are founded on religious principles that provide education for the mind and soul; quality education integrated with faith which produces excellence in students’ intellectual, spiritual and social development.
These schools are preferred by many parents since they teach virtues that many parents espouse. With values such as discipline, respect, perseverance, hard work, communal responsibility and commitment imparted to the students over the years, the students’ attitude and approach to life is shaped accordingly.
Pastor Jackie Barlow, one of the panelists at this meeting said Parents take their children to schools with religious backgrounds to further cement their belief.
“If you shape children in a particular direction, they will not deviate,” she said.
She explained that churches should strategically think about the reopening to give learners some kind of direction that not all hope has been lost in the past 2 years.
One of the panelists, Shannon Mujera, the Team Leader of National Christian Students’ Association Kenya, shared her experience in the reopening of the Kenyan economy.
“It was a call from everyone (a lot of stakeholders including parents and church leaders) because the consequences of letting learners stay at home were greater. The constant argument is that you can revive an economy but you cannot always revive a life,” she said.
George Atuhaire, a parent of three, who attended this session online said hopelessness is happening to children as well since there has been a drastic change in lifestyles because some of their parents lost jobs.
“Spirituality, for most children is learnt in schools. This is when children are taught to have faith regarding life’s challenges through prayer. Many parents do not have time to teach spirituality to their children. The spiritual dedication and lessons that children learn in school is what sustains many later in life. These children need this nourishment now more than ever before,” Atuhaire said.
Jothan Burabuto, the Executive Director at Uganda Youth Network, said there is need for all stakeholders to work together and drum the message of hope and recovery.
“Prepare the population. Seeing what other countries did like Taiwan, Malaysia and you compare to the situation in Africa (what happened in these countries and what is happening in Africa?), in Kenya you see that people have a better argument of leaving the learning institutions open and letting the students go back to school,” he said.
With the restrictions on the operation of places of worship and closure of schools, the deteriorating rates in the morale, values, confidence, soundness of mind among learners is waning by the day.
Places of worship are still under restrictions of a maximum cap of 200 congregants and yet still children are not being allowed to congregate.