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OPEN LETTER TO GOV’T: Open the schools now! We are losing our children to the world

President Museveni and his wife Janet Museveni, on arrive at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala, Uganda for WorldHealthSummit official opening (PHOTO /Courtesy)

President Museveni and Education Minister Janet Museveni (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Dear President, Prime Minister, Ministers,

We recognise and respect that government leaders are taking unprecedented measures to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, which poses a grave threat to the lives of many millions of Ugandans.

Urgent steps like school closures have been taken up to overcome the disease, and we understand that the need for it as the pandemic is deeply affecting the environment in which children grow and develop, from early childhood to adolescence.

COVID-19 is inflicting great pain and suffering throughout the world. We extend our deepest sympathies to those who have lost, or may lose, loved ones to this dreadful disease.

We know that the disease and efforts to stem it will affect the health, well-being and future of our children. It is vital that our government has designed responses in a way that protects children’s rights to survival and development, their physical and mental health, nutrition, protection, education, well-being and care, as well as their right to be informed and to be heard.

We are particularly concerned for over 15 million learners in Ugandan schools that were sent back home in the first lockdown, and just a fraction returning to schools before the second lockdown shut all of them out once again.

A catastrophe is folding before us as we are losing our children to the world. Without the support system of teachers and school administrators, many girls are left vulnerable to teenage pregnancy, early childhood marriage and gender-based violence, among other devastating effects of Covid-19.

It is essential that confinement measures in response to COVID-19 do not curtail and damage their prospects for a lifetime.

In the desperate fight against coronavirus, we need to ensure that children are protected not only from COVID-19, but as well from the unintended consequences unfolding as the result of the confinement procedures put forward to combat the pandemic.

As educators and responsible adults, we know that there is more to schools than learning! Behind every school is a safe child, a learning child. When schools close, children are at risk with marginalized ones paying a heavier price.

Evidence shows that the children’s numeracy and literacy levels fall with many facing the risk of never attending school again. There are other risks such as child labour, negative mental health, teenage pregnancy and early child marriages.

Open the schools now. We are losing our children to the world.
The costs of school closures are catastrophic and enduring. Our schools must be opened now, and must never close again.

They must open with a renewed commitment to standards, spirit, optimism and excellence — nothing less will be acceptable for our children’s success in the difficult post-pandemic period to come.

With our children out of school for over 15 months, only schools will serve the best interests and welfare of all our young people as they return from the mental and physical trauma of prolonged lockdown, no sport, no play, no socializing, no dreaming, and highly compromised education — or no education at all.

I am therefore calling on you, the government leaders to ensure, in earnest, that in the face of a changing and challenging world, there is need to ensure continued education, in a safe environment, for every child.

With this, we urge the government to prioritize opening schools now to secure the children well beings because the spring and summer belong to our children, and the coming fall as well. For the future, too, is theirs.

Written by a responsible adult to the people in authority.

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