This blog draws attention to the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic to the lives of the young generation in Uganda. Due to lockdowns, many children have been forced to join the labor force to support their parents with income making continuity of their academic journey very challenging. School closures have also left the girls in a precarious position without support systems of the school staff and in some cases parents. As a result, they have spent more times with boys and men resulting into exploitation and engagement in risky behavior
By Gertrude Masembe
Executive Director at CINTA Foundation
Ripping the Country of its Valuable Young Generation
COVID-19 is without a doubt one of the devastating pandemics of the 21st century with 4,067,517 deaths recorded globally according to the world Health Organizations (WHO)statistics. Despite a number of interventions and massive funding into the health sector especially in the third world countries like Uganda, nations are failing to contain the new variants that come with a mutating virus. The pandemic has had devastating effects on all sectors and human lives but in this blog, I wish to draw attention to the devastating effects of this pandemic to the lives of the young generation.
In Uganda, the second wave has claimed more lives than the first despite readiness of health workers and initial equipping of health facilities. This left the government with no option but to impose a second 42 [i]day lockdown to minimize the spread. Unfortunately, these lockdown counter measures have left a fragile economy with escalating domestic violence, uncountable teenage pregnancies and loss of education years for the young generation.
Uganda has a very young population, with approximately 75% of the population being below the age of 30 and out of these 15million are still in school. The instituted lockdown will therefore have long term effects to the country since education is the main driver for moving people out of poverty with each year of schooling anticipated to raise average earnings by 11.3% for males and 14.5% for females (World Bank study, 2020).
So far almost two academic years have been lost, save for those students already found attending candidate classes. Due to lockdowns, many children have been forced to join the labor force to support their parents with income making continuity of their academic journey very challenging. School closures have also left the girls in a precarious position without support systems of the school staff and in some cases parents. As a result, they have spent more times with boys and men resulting into exploitation and engagement in risky behavior.
The impact of lockdowns to girls is visible through escalating number of teenage pregnancies, the highest in the past five years in the country. UNESCO report of June 2021 states that, in Uganda, between March 2020 and June 2021, there was a 22.5 per cent increase in pregnancy among girls aged 10-24 seeking first antenatal care from 80,653 to 98,810. In Kitgum district alone 1,519 girls below 19 years attended their first antenatal visit and this number doesn’t cater for the many that opted to stay home.
The government made effort in trying to ensure continuity of education for learners by providing home schooling packages though exercise seemed ineffective. Many learners missed out and even some of those who received the materials had lots of difficulties in conceptualizing the content. The best option would have been online classes but this is far from being achieved, given minimal internet coverage with only 17% of the population covered by LTE/4G in the country,  high cost of internet packages and lack of access to technology gadgets like smart phones necessary for the learning process. This leaves the country in a gloomy picture unless robust systems are put in place to counter these effects.
It is therefore critical, that government balances the benefits of school closures against effects to the children’s future. There is an urgent need by the Ministry of Education to come up with a sustainable and immediate plan to ensure education access to children because information available so far seems to suggest that COVID is here to stay.
 Deanna Fanelli et al, 2020;Effect of COVID 19 on the education sector in Uganda
 Dr. Munir Safieldein, “Priotise re-opening of schools to secure children’s wellbeing” UNICEF Report, July (2021), OpEd
 Alison et al (2019);The state of ICT in Uganda.