June 23, 2021

Overcoming Learning Loss in Uganda

EDC is delivering remote learning as part of a comprehensive educational and social reform effort in the country.

Ambassador Natalie Brown reads to children at an ICYD event.

In Uganda, the educational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe. Schools remain closed as the country grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases. And while some children in urban areas are involved in online classes, the majority of children in rural areas have been using government-provided self-study materials to continue their education.

Learning just isn’t the same as it used to be.

“I miss my friends and the teachers,” says a young student named Juma. Like many of his friends and classmates, Juma has traded learning for work during the pandemic, and he now helps his grandmother sell charcoal for money.

“Learning alone at home is so different, and I don’t feel like I am studying,” says Juma.

But schools will open again—and when they do, children like Juma will need educational help to make up for lost learning time. EDC is supporting this re-integration by delivering remote learning lessons as part of its implementation of the USAID Integrated Child and Youth Development (ICYD) activity. ICYD is a five-year, $148 million initiative that will provide basic education, health, and social services to all Ugandan children.

In July, ICYD will begin broadcasting early grade reading programs over the radio to communities where schools remain closed due to the pandemic. The programs will reach an estimated 17,500 children and will be broadcast in six languages: Lebacholi, Runyoro/Rutoro, Runyakole/Rukiga, Lusoga, Luganda, and Leblango.

Developed by EDC in partnership with Uganda’s Ministry of Education, the programs will encourage reading at home and in the community, and they will help parents learn how to support their children’s reading skills. The programs will also emphasize the importance of partnership between the school and the home to support children’s learning and safety.

EDC has long used radio-based programming to deliver basic education, including literacy instruction, to communities during times of emergency and crisis. This continuity of education is important. Evidence shows that when children acquire reading skills early in primary school, they are less likely to drop out of school; they have greater academic achievement; and they enjoy improved chances of success later in life.

In Uganda, where 80% of school-age children live in under-resourced rural areas, there is a great need for educational support that is not tied to physical infrastructures, such as schools.

Speaking at a recent USAID ICYD launch event, United States Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown recognized the necessity of delivering high-quality education to the country’s learners.

“We must do everything possible to address this challenge to ensure that today’s school children grow into educated, productive, and active citizens,” Brown said. 

Local educators are also encouraged by ICYD’s focus on basic literacy and education. According to Daniel Ndagga, the municipal education officer for Entebbe Municipality, Wakiso district, the radio content will be a valuable support in addressing learning loss.

“This home learning intervention is a wonderful gesture of goodwill, and the approach adopted to reach the benefactors is customized to suit the uniqueness of our locality,” says Ndagga. “The model is designed to bring services nearer to the people.”