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COVID: Govt secures $15m education recovery grant

Uganda has secured a $15 million (Shs 55.8 billion) grant to facilitate the COVID-19 emergency education response project by the ministry of Education and Sports. The funding is part of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) programme channelled through the World Bank. 

The project is expected to run for 18 months and will benefit 14.6 million learners in pre-primary, primary, and lower-secondary education cycles, and 406,000 teachers and school administrators. It will focus on ensuring continued learning during the closure of schools and preparing the system for school reopening once the situation allows. 

In the first phase of the project, the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) will take the lion’s share, spending Shs 1.9 billion to develop self-study materials, Shs 2.6 billion to establish a printery and Shs 20.8 billion to print and distribute self-study materials. 

NCDC will also use over Shs 2.6 billion to produce materials for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. This includes printing self-study home packages in large print and braille, recorded lessons and presentations for different categories of visually impaired students and television-lessons which will use sign languages and subtitles for students with hearing difficulties. 

In a recent interview, Dr Bernadette Nambi, the deputy director of the NCDC intimated that the distribution of self-study materials had been affected by a shortage of funds. She said that with funding in place, the centre needs only 35 days to produce learning materials for the entire student population. 

As part of the project, the ministry of Education will develop key messages awareness and health safeguarding messages to be delivered to students, teachers, parents, and community members through SMS, TV, and radio. 

“The awareness campaign will promote psychosocial support and referrals for case management for teachers and students as well as identify and report high risks children and teachers face in the community,” according to the project brief.  

Over Shs 2.2 billion is also included to support the procurement of airtime on radio and TV stations to air lessons to support learning, provide transportation for teachers from homes to radio stations and back to their homes, and provide facilitation for teachers to prepare and deliver lessons on radio and TV. However, this specific project will not cover the planned distribution of radios and TVs to families.  

Part of the project funding to a tune of Shs 26.97 billion will be used to support the safe re-opening, student re-entry, and sustained progression in schools. In this aspect, the ministry will, among other things, carry out on training standard operating procedures for reopening, establish remedial programs for girls and students with special needs and create back to school campaigns. 

Under the same component, the ministry will provide public schools with small grants to support the implementation of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs, provide psycho-social support, safety, and security of students. 

“The grant will also cover purchasing soaps, buckets, and hand-washing facilities that will additionally be adaptive to persons with disabilities in schools. It will include cleaning and disinfectants and sanitizing materials. Face masks will be provided under other government programs,” the application document adds. 

Uganda had applied for Shs 74.4 billion ($20 million) under the grant. But 1.75 per cent of the funds will be given to the United Nations International Children's Fund (Unicef) as the project coordinating agency. 

In late March, the Unicef office in Uganda received a GPE grant of over Shs 260 million (70,000) to support the ministry of Education in planning its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Later in April, Standard Chartered bank donated $1 million to the same agency for its COVID-19 response to the vulnerable women and children.

Amidst fears that the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown which led to the closure of schools may worsen the already waning learning outcomes and increase school dropout rates in Uganda, the ministry is striving to put up a strong recovery and response plan to ensure continued learning.

However, several educationists have poked holes in the ministry’s plan with some describing it as a white elephant.

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