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Online Learning: Just a Story in Karamoja as Government Extends Lockdown

By Timothy Eoudu

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At the time of this interview, the DEO told Aica that the Moroto District COVID-19 Task Force was waiting for the 12th presidential address [which was yesterday], to guide the district in the next decision.

President Yoweri Museveni yesterday [Monday, May 04th, 2020] announced the extension of the Lockdown for another 14 days, with earlier communicated measures remain in place.

In the address, the President announced that food markets remain open, and whole sale shops, hardware shops, garages, metal and wood workshops are to begin operating as well.

Other service providers such as Quotas of Lawyers have also been permitted to work, meanwhile Airports and boarders stay closed.

Those that remain closed include schools and other facilities that attract large numbers, according to the President.

The remaining of schools being closed means that, the guideline given by the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports, of Television and Radio studies for students in Pre-Primary, Ordinary and Advanced Levels of Education remain working.

On Monday, April 20th, 2020, the Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Sports, Janet Museveni told press that due to the present circumstances of total lockdown, parents should take charge of their children’s learning.

The Minister also directed for full TV and Radio lessons for primary and secondary school learners amid the corona virus lockdown because the Ministry had produced a framework to guide the process of continuity of learning.

A learner following class on radio. COURTESY PHOTO.

However, this program seems to have hit a stumbling block in Karamoja region in far north eastern Uganda.

The region is classified as one of the world’s poorest areas, with high rates of malnutrition and a disproportionate number (61%) of its 1.2 million people living in absolute poverty.

Aica has learnt that some teachers in the region have never heard of the radio/TV education program.

Mary Achola, a teacher at Rainbow Nursery and Primary school in Moroto district says she has no clue about when the program will start and she is waiting for formal communication from the district authorities.

“I have not heard about it before and the education office has not called us, I don’t really know how it’s going to work,” she told this Aica.

Achola also has concern that most of the children in the region are taken up by domestic works which may hinder them from attending to these programs.

Mr. Moses Lopuko, a teacher at Nakiceleet Primary School in Lokopo Sub County, Napak district said he heard of the program but not understood how it will be applicable, especially for practical subjects such as mathematics and also, handling of lower primary pupils who may need more attention from teachers.

“For lower primary classes, we involve children in the learning process, for mathematics needs TV so that learners can just view, because one cannot explain mathematics on radio,” said Lopuko.

He urged government to provide villages in the region with enough radio receivers in order to enable rural learners to be part of the program and to avoid overcrowding.

Learners Speak Up
A young Karamojong herding cattle recently. COURTESY PHOTO.

Michael Phillip Tukei, a pupil of Matany Primary School is concerned that the program would not favor some of them who would be grazing at the fields and most of his colleagues with hearing impairments.

Caroline Auma, a student of Moroto High School, said it would be better if the program involved selected students and pupils to help guide during the program on radio and TV.

According to Auma, this would encourage other learners at home to participate in the listening and viewing of lessons.

What Parents Think

Eddy Acoya, a parent in Moroto town, says that the program may not fit the Karamoja region due to the poverty level that has left most families fail to own TV sets or radio receivers.

He urges government to consider returning candidate classes back to school, so that that they can cope up with the remaining syllabus.

Benedict Epogu, believes the program may not properly work in this region because most families lack radio receivers or Television sets to aid their children to learn during this period of the lockdown.

He however urges the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports to seek for a proper solution that benefits all learners irrespective of their location.

Authorities Speak Out

Paul Oputa, the District Education Officer [DEO]-Moroto, confirmed to Aica that many people do not even own radio receivers and that makes it very difficult to start the program in the region.

“We are aware that most of our people do not have radios, especially in villages and the task force has not yet endorsed the program, because we don’t yet know its modality,” he disclosed.

At the time of this interview, the DEO told Aica that the Moroto District COVID-19 Task Force was waiting for the 12th presidential address [which was yesterday], to guide the district in the next decision.

The DEO also added that they will be working with education partners in the region to reach the rural pupils and students.

According to the Uganda Communications Commission National Media Performance Study of 2012, while 94% of the urban population felt adequately covered by radio, 74% of their rural counterparts had the similar view in the region. It also noted that Television viewership was very low in the whole Northern region (20%) due to the lack of grid electricity.

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