Now, like never before, the continuity of learning has become a burden that parents, learners, government and teachers have to heavily share.
The Ministry of Education on one hand, under its Preparedness and Response Plan that focuses on continuity of learning during this lockdown developed, printed and distributed the self-study materials which are also used to deliver lessons on TV and radios across the country. On the other hand, parents have become the facilitators of these lessons, partly taking on the role of teacher, while learners also get fully involved in their learning.
And while this mass teaching and learning had its own challenges, from the feedback we gathered, parents and learners are stepping up to make use of the teaching on TVs and radios, while others supplement it.
From the time it was introduced, this has been the only source of teaching and learning that Peace Nambooze, a Senior Four student of Zana Mixed School had been relying on.
She made her own timetable after seeing one on TV. Though she diligently attends these lessons, sometimes the signals are problematic, especially on a rainy day.
"During the lessons, I make sure I am available and not disturbed. I have a separate book for the TV lessons and while it goes on, I make notes. Often, they give us exercises to complete, and I also make sure that I do these," she explains. But Nambooze is also not contented since the TV lessons only apply to science subjects of Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English. She is also concerned that this mode doesn't allow for practical lessons.
"The lessons have really helped, though the teachers are always in a hurry! In Maths, for example, you can lose track while the teacher works out a number but you can't even ask them. They say find us on our social media platforms for more information, but not all of us can," says Nambooze.
When asked about whether her home environment has been conducive for these lessons, she answers in the affirmative but also shares that her siblings sometimes disturb and distract her. She also has underlaying fears, as a learner in a candidate class.
"The lockdown was being extended everytime and I am no longer sure whether we will be able to do Uneb examinations. I don't want to spend another year in the same class. I want to get done with this Senior Four," she notes emphatically.
Keisha Kego, a Senior Six student from Greenhill Academy also follows the teaching on TV.
"My parents are supportive because they believe the lessons will help me remember whatever I have learnt in school, but I also take initiative and the lessons have been helpful," she says.
"My biggest challenge has been the manner of teaching. I think most of the teachers teach as though they were teaching and communicating to their own students in their schools and not as if they are teaching the entire nation . I would appreciate it if they could be a little slower and explain whatever they say in detail," Kego says.
Just like Nambooze, she also makes notes while attending the lessons in a concentrated manner.
"I sit with my classwork books on the side, to be able to constantly resort to them while the teacher is explaining a particular topic.
I take small notes in case there are some new things and insights the teacher is bringing," she notes.
To be able to also learn other subjects, Kego gets more teachings from her class teachers through zoom lessons and WhatsApp group discussions. Her school also sends weekly work through emails or the school website.
A number of parents we talked to support their children to make the best out of these lessons on TV.
"When they are to study, I make sure I wake them early in the morning, have them prepared, pay attention and wait for the lesson to start. I also bought them books where they write. I follow up to make sure that they do their assignments and also mark their workbooks," Hassan Kayongo, a parent shares.
However, with the prevailing economic circumstances, some parents are starting to feel the pinch of paying TV subscription.
Immaculate Wanyana, a parent with four children in Senior four, Senior Three, Primary Seven and Primary Five shares that all her children now depend on TV for learning.
However, due to her dwindling finances, she is sceptical on whether she will be able to sustain the cost of learning on TV.
"I used to pay for TV subscription per month at Shs26000 but now I can only pay for a week at Shs3500. Now, a week can come and I don't have that money for the subscription. This means our children will not be able to learn. If this is becoming the case for us in Kampala, what about those in villages!" she says.
Supplementing TV/radio lessons
Though some parents appreciate and utilise these government lessons, they also believe that they are not sufficient for learners especially those in secondary and thus supplement these with other materials from different platforms.
James Kassaga Arinaitwe is guardian to four learners; three in the village and one, he lives with in Kampala.
"The one I live with goes to Ntare School, and he is doing well compared to his peers because I have a combination of other things that I do to supplement what the government gives them. We use the printed materials from the National Curriculum Development Center, revision questions from newspapers, khan academy (an online source) and for languages, an application called 'Duolingo' for his Swahili, French and Chinese lessons," he explains.
In addition, he is able to manage and keep checking on him according to a time table that he follows. On the contrary, the ones in the village have limited supervision, and they always have to take pictures of the materials here, and send them to the village for the rest to learn.
"It is very challenging and I doubt they have the guidance that this young man who I have here has. Otherwise, the materials on TV and radio are inadequate," he notes.
Learners in remote villages
Since learners in rural areas may not have access to television and radio, distribution of self-study materials by the MoES was prioritised for such learners. However, teachers we talked to in Luweero and Mayuge Districts noted that this is not the case.
Rose Namaalwa, a teacher at Nalongo Church of Uganda Primary School, in Nalongo Village, Luweero District noted that though materials reached on ground, which brought smiles to parent's faces, their smiles were shuttered after receiving news that they were to pay some money to receive these.
"They claimed that it is for photocopying the materials, but parents don't have this money. I have been informed that lower classes are supposed to pay Shs2,500, upper classes Shs3,000 while secondary students pay Shs8,000." she noted.
When asked about the use of radios in his community, Ivan Womala a teacher at a local school in Bwiwula village in Mayuge District noted that when the initiative to have lessons on radios was announced by the ministry, he went around informing the parents about it, and encouraged them to tune in. "Though some were excited about it, only about 30 per cent of the parents told me they would follow these. The rest told me they couldn't provide that to their learners, so I doubt that radio is being as effective," Womala notes.
The case of self-study materials is more or so the same in Mayuge, as Womala shares.
"Here in Bwiwula, the materials have not yet arrived. We thought maybe the delay was in the distribution process, but we hear from other neighbouring communities where the materials have reached, that parents are stuck because they are asked to pay some money for printing," he adds.
The directive from the ministry
On May, 12, the MoES issued a circular noting that they have been informed about some unscrupulous people who have resorted to reprinting and/or photocopying the study materials and selling them to parents at a fee.
In a circular, Alex Kakooza, the Permanent Secretary, MoES emphasised that the materials were produced and distributed to be accessed by learners free of charge.
"If Local Governments or NGOs wish to print and distribute to more learners, it should be done at their own expense," he noted.
He also requested that: the general public not to buy the self-study materials from any person or company, any of these found selling should be reported and arrested by police and that monitoring of the usability of the self-study materials should be continued by Chief Administrative Officers and Town Clerks.