For students in Uganda, schools have been partially closed for 24 weeks and fully closed for 40 weeks, which is one of the longest closures in the world.
Fortunately, during the short periods where schools were open, Ugandan students in certain grades could return to the classroom to prepare for their secondary school entrance exams. Thirteen-year-old Hadija, a sponsored child with Canadian Feed The Children, was one of them.
Nash Paul, a social worker with our local partner HUYSLINCI, spoke with Hadija about her exams, how COVID-19 has affected her education, and her dreams for the future. Here’s what she said.
HADIJA, TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF. HOW IS SCHOOL GOING?
My name is Hadija and I’m 13-years-old. I just finished my primary leaving examinations (P.L.E), meaning that I have completed primary grade seven. I live with my parents and siblings. I love being in school, reading books, discovering new things and performing well in class.
My teachers know me for always asking them questions - I want to know the answers to everything. I want to be knowledgeable and study to higher heights.
HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED YOUR EDUCATION?
We had to “repeat” the same grade over because we missed so much. When our President announced schools had to close at the beginning of the pandemic, we only thought it would be for a little time. It took months!
I missed the school library and all my teachers. We could call our teachers for help on the telephone, but unfortunately there wasn’t too much they could do. I’m very thankful HUYSINICI shared reading material and workbooks with us so I could keep up my studies at home.
WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS AROUND THE SCHOOL CLOSURE?
Frankly speaking, I had begun to lose hope of resuming school any time soon. The day that the President announced that the lockdown had been eased and that the Ministries of Education and Health said schools were to reopen, I read my textbooks even harder because I realized that I only had three months to take my exams!
Back in October 2020, the lockdown had been eased and schools subsequently opened but for finalists students like me only. The rest of the classes at our school were not allowed by the government to open until recently.
When the primary seven candidates were allowed to resume studies, our teachers told us that we had much to study within a short time and this meant a heavier workload. We studied for two and a half months for term two, and then term three from January 2021 to April 30, 2021. We were very busy with our teachers because we had to cover a lot of material in a limited amount of time.
WHEN YOU WERE AT HOME, HOW DID YOU KEEP BUSY?
Well, I was never bored (she laughs as she says this). At first I would play with my siblings and relax but soon grew restless - I loved to be engaged in doing something. So, I took up sewing!
I’m proud of what I accomplished - I learned how to use a sewing machine and can now make shirts, skirts, and so much more. I’d love to learn how to make fancy party dresses like a Gomesi.
Every day I’d wake up, do prayers, clean the house, then practice my sewing. In the evening, I’d work on the reading materials to keep up with my studies.
CONGRATULATIONS ON COMPLETING YOUR EXAMS - THAT’S A HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO STUDY IN SECONDARY SCHOOL?
Mathematics and science! Maths is my favourite subject for years now, and I’m good at it. My parents are so impressed with my math skills, so I feel proud. Some day I’d love to be a mathematics teacher. My teachers at school have inspired me so much. After speaking with the career counselors at my school, I know I’m on the right path and I truly believe maths makes me the person I want to be in life.
Mentoring other children is something I want to do more of in secondary school as well. I help my siblings with maths, and I love feeling like I can support children and touch their lives through education.
THANK YOU FOR THIS INTERVIEW, HADIJA. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO ADD?
I feel so fortunate to be a sponsored child - my sponsorship has provided me with school meals, workbooks, sports equipment, and many opportunities.
Because of HUYSLINICI, my mom joined our village’s VSLA which brought extra income to our family and supplied me with additional textbooks and clothes for school.
Canadian Feed The Children provided our family with food during the lockdown, and school meals when we were in class, so for that we are really grateful.
Thank you for everything, I feel so lucky.
In August 2021, UNICEF estimated that the first day of school will be delayed for over 140 million children worldwide. These delays in education risk students falling behind in their learning which can have negative lasting impacts. If children miss the opportunity to start their schooling, they might never make it to the classroom and be forced into early marriage, migration or labour.
It will take a lot of effort, but together we can ensure that the children in our partner communities can look forward to completing a good education. We thank all of our supporters for joining with families and communities to support the education of children like Hadija in Canada and around the world. Together, we can change their future for good.