“I miss school, I miss my friends” – Childhood during lockdown
“I miss school so much,” says 16-year-old Luc* outside the small home that he shares with his parents and younger brothers in the sprawling Kyangwali refugee settlement.
“I miss reading in our club, playing with my friends and walking to school together.”
Like many countries, Uganda has closed all schools and public gatherings as part of measures to try and prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
But children like Luc are desperate to try and keep learning on his own. “I revise my books under the tree before it gets dark,” he says, “but during the night I cannot read because it’s dark inside.”
To help learning continue while schools are closed, Save the Children is distributing home learning packs to more than 100,000 children across Uganda. The packs contain study materials and child-friendly information on how to stay safe and healthy.
With support from EU humanitarian funding (ECHO), some of these packs are being distributed to refugee children in Kyangwali. More than 123,000 refugees now live there, most having fled the war in neighbouring DR Congo. Before the borders closed, refugees were continuing to arrive in Kyangwali every day.
Luc was one of the first here to receive a pack. He normally attends Save the Children’s Accelerated Education Programme (AEP), which provides a condensed and flexible curriculum specially designed for children who have missed out on years of school due to conflict, displacement and poverty.
16-year-old Sarah* also attends the AEP and is equally excited to receive the packs.
“I miss going to school and studying,” she says. “Since we were stopped from going to school I have not done any learning because there is no one to teach me.”
All over the settlement children are determined to keep learning despite the difficulties.
Stephen*, 15, (pictured below) says he has been trying to read books at home after he helps his mother and father around the house. “But it’s difficult because my younger brothers want to read with me, and when I support them we just end up playing!
“When I hear the word Corona I feel so sad because it has made me miss school and miss my friends,” he says. “I can’t wait to hear that schools are open again”.
10-year-old Florence* agrees. “I miss learning, writing notes from the blackboard and swinging from the muzunde (swing) at break time. When school opens I will be happy to learn with my friends again and play together.”
With ECHO’s support, Save the Children and other agencies are also sending messages over the local radio stations to help children learn and get information about COVID-19.
“I have been trying to learn through listening to radio because sometimes teachers teach on radio,” says Dennis*, aged 14.
Disseminating accurate and understandable information is key to stopping the spread of the virus.
“I know that Corona is an illness that people acquire through various ways of greeting people and when you shake hands, hug others, play football with friends…” says Luc. “And when people fail to wash their hands with clean water and soap regularly. I always make sure I wash my hands – and my young brother’s hands – with soap every time.
“I stay at home and take care of my brother because I don’t want to suffer from Corona.”
* Names changed to protect identities