Jan 10, 2022 - World

Schools reopen in Uganda after world's longest COVID shutdown

A trio of students is seen in a classroom at St, Edward High School after
A trio of students is seen in a classroom at St. Edward High School after schools reopened following an almost two-year closure. Photo: Badru Katumba/AFP via Getty Images

Uganda reopened its schools Monday, ending the world's longest coronavirus-related shutdown and ushering millions of students back to the classroom for the first time in almost two years.

Why it matters: Uganda initially shut down schools in March 2020, affecting more than 10.4 million students, per the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

  • The duration of the lockdown was criticized by some, who claimed that the government used the virus to "suppress dissent," the New York Times noted.
  • Janet Museveni, the first lady of Uganda, defended the shutdown last year, saying it was implemented "to ensure that the lives of children remain safe."

The big picture: Vaccination rates in Uganda remain low, per the Times.

  • The reopening also comes amid the spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant.
  • The Times notes that while the government tried to implement remote education via TV, radio and the internet, "many households do not have ready access to electronic devices or electricity, and are led by parents with limited education themselves, hindering their ability to help their children."
  • The government's National Planning Authority found that 51% of students stopped learning during the shutdown, "and as many as a third may not return to the classroom now," the Times reports.

What they're saying: "All schools have implemented guidelines and standard operating procedures to ensure the safe return of children to schools," education minister John Muyingo told AFP.

  • Measures "have been put in place to ensure those who don’t comply do so," Muyingo added.
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