Uganda gets $2m from UK, Ireland for safe reopening of schools

United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has received $2.6 million from the UK and Irish governments to support Uganda’s safe reopening of schools.

The officials say the primary focus will be on school-based surveillance for early identification, reporting, and management of emerging Covid-19 cases in schools, and the secondary focus will be on mental health of teachers and children, as well as the psychosocial training to readjust to school life following the two-year virus-induced lockdown.

It is anticipated that these are critical activities will enable schools to remain open and continue to provide education for the country’s children.

The initiative will enable up to 40,000 schools (both public and private) across the country to effectively track and manage Covid-19 cases and support students and teachers on re-entry.

The UK has provided £450,000 (about $609,594) towards the initiative, while the Irish government has injected Euro 1.8 million (about $2 million) for the school reopening strategy.

Speaking at the opening of a one-day training programme for teachers and head teachers at Buganda Road Primary School in the capital Kampala on Thursday, Ms Kate Airey, British High Commissioner to Uganda, said “I sympathise with my Government of Uganda colleagues who have had to make really difficult decisions over the last two years. I, like all Ugandans, were relieved when the Government announced schools would be reopening on the January 10, 2022.”

Regaining lost ground will not be easy, she said.

“Without investment in human capital, without schools remaining open, I fear Ugandans will start to fall behind regional peers,” Ms Airey said, adding that Uganda must create a system to ensure that schools remain open, and education can carry on without further interruptions.

“I share Unicef’s respect for all head-teachers and teachers present here. Others can support, but only you can keep the schools safe and ensure that children receive the quality education they need and deserve,” Unicef country representative Munir A. Safieldin said.

“We are aware that there are many challenges, and your task at the forefront of this effort is among the most difficult. However, if anyone can make this happen, teachers can. The future of a generation of children, and the future of the country, is in your able hands.”

Cormac Shine, Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of Ireland, said Dublin, along with development partners, remains committed to supporting education in Uganda and that the safe reopening of schools is “a landmark achievement after a challenging few years.”