2021: Best ever exam results despite lockdowns
Lockdown in Uganda was the most drastic in Africa. It has experienced the world’s longest closure of schools (22 months), with many children thought to have dropped out of education entirely, unlikely to return – some of these because of teenage pregnancy, others because they have taken up work to help support their families. Travel was curtailed, cutting people off from employment opportunities and support networks. Strict curfews were imposed. The impact has been reduced income for families already living in severe poverty. Child of Hope has been able to mitigate for its families against the worst impacts of the pandemic restrictions.
The exam year pupils in Primary 7 and Senior 4 were allowed back to school for a few months by the Government, to enable them to prepare for and sit their exams a few months later than normal. Accommodation was provided on site for P7 pupils for several weeks prior to their Primary Leaving Exam (PLE), allowing concentrated input and revision to offset the missed school attendance. These special efforts of staff resulted in yet another record set of PLE results, putting the primary school amongst the top results of Ugandan schools.
Teachers who remained on staff during the long lockdown worked hard to prepare curriculum materials and ensure the readiness of buildings for whenever the children might be allowed to return. They also collated home learning packs to deliver to primary and secondary pupils during the closure, following these up with visits, providing some individual home tuition.
Welfare teams worked hard to monitor all pupils’ wellbeing while out of school. Some of the secondary pupils were helped to remain purposefully occupied by being given opportunities to help the welfare team. This included the distribution of food vouchers and completion (under supervision) of the accompanying paperwork.
Our emergency appeal that ran during the autumn brought in £15,000, which allowed continuing support through food vouchers to the neediest families of Namatala. Then, our Christmas appeal brought in a further £8,270 to provide approximately 5,000 people with meat, rice and vegetables for celebratory Christmas meals in their own homes.
Major achievements in 2021
Excellent Primary exam results: respite the challenges of the past 18 months, our latest primary leavers have smashed previous Child of Hope records in their primary leaving exam! This now puts our school officially in the top 3% of primary schools in Uganda, compared with the top 6% last year. There are four divisions of pass, with all our children passing in the top two divisions, 61% in division 1.
Secondary exams: Our Year 4 secondary students took their Ugandan Certificate of Education exams. The local community was surprised at their encouraging results, especially since this was our first year and school had been closed most of the time. We therefore expect to improve considerably on these in future years. At UCE Level, the students are tested in 8-10 different subjects. A score is obtained for each subject, these scores being aggregated to get a final score, which determines which Division the student achieves.
Fostering: Our project provides care for our vulnerable, homeless, orphaned or abandoned pupils (23 children as at the end of 2021). Their personal suffering is alleviated by supporting them to live with trained and vetted foster families. As well as supplying daily basic physical needs of accommodation, warmth and food, the project helps to address emotional needs by providing a nurturing environment to combat feelings of loss, rejection and isolation, while building self-confidence and sense of worth.
Solar power was installed at the secondary school: Students and staff will no longer be dependent on our generator for lighting and power sockets (there has been no national electricity available in the area since the school was built).
IT laboratory: Installation commenced at the secondary school and work undertaken to strengthen the security of the room with a concrete ceiling, solid partition walls and reinforced doors. These additional security measures have been necessitated by the pandemic, which has seen crime rates soar amongst people desperate to find an income.
Rice: Growing crops was difficult in 2021 with periods of flooding followed by drought. In this first season we produced about three tonnes of rice, most of which is being held in our storehouse as the prices are still increasing. An irrigation system is currently being established that is expected to double the yield to six tonnes per season.
Emergency Covid support: Child of Hope raised money to help hungry families and throughout the year the family support team provided regular food, hygiene products, masks and medical supplies. School nurse and her assistants provide basic education on primary health care to reduce the spread of all diseases including malaria and typhoid. Our school clinic remains open to any of our children who need medical attention.
A third well with solar-powered pumps and a new irrigation system will ensure all-year-round water for rice fields and crops, providing food for the school and income for the 80 mums who work our land. They have received training to grow maize and beans. Our BMI records reveal 30% of children to be underweight. By increasing food yields through effective irrigation and by contributing to increased family income, we can help to reduce malnutrition.
The main illnesses treated were respiratory tract infections, sickle cell anaemia, immune-suppressed children due to HIV/AIDS or TB, malaria, plus wound dressing. Counselling on life and health issues was also undertaken. Our vulnerable pupils with medical issues continued to receive enhanced monitoring and nutritional food like milk and eggs.
Because of lockdowns, the nurse and her team went out into the community to treat children and distribute medicines in their homes. The treatments administered in the community were mainly malaria treatment, de-worming tablets, medicines for HIV and sickle cell anaemia, and nutrition supplements.
For the future
2022 is a year for rebuilding lives. Our schools re-opened in January 2022 following nearly two years of national Covid closures. With the children having been out of school for so long, they will need to get used to learning in a classroom again. It will also, hopefully, be the first full year for our new secondary school and we will be focusing on making improvements there. We will also focus on helping the IGA mothers to rebuild all their small businesses.