August 21, 2020

DELIVERING Study MATERIALs DOOR TO DOOR TO ensure students continue to learn during covid-19 lockdown

 Michael Kawuki, Luigi Giussani High School Head Teacher, gets on his motorcycle every day by 7:00 AM with a list of home addresses to distribute study guides and books to students, like 18-year-old Bernadetta Anieno.  

Studies show that school closure during COVID-19 has adverse effects on children and adolescents. Young people are anxious and worried  that they will never go back to school. Bernadetta Anieno, 18 years old, is no exception. 

“They kept postponing the reopening, and I was losing hope,” remembers Bernadetta, who has been studying at AVSI-USA's long-term partner Luigi Giussani High School in Kampala, Uganda, since 2017. “I was just home doing nothing, not even reading. One day, I asked myself what I would become if I kept being home just watching TV.”

Bernadetta’s hope was renewed when Michael Kawuki, Luigi Giussani High School Head Teacher, began to knock on her door, bringing school material. Since the Ugandan Government closed all schools to avoid the spread of coronavirus, Kawuki has gotten on his motorcycle every day by 7:00 AM with a list of students and their home addresses ready to deliver their schoolwork. His bag is full of study guides and books. 

“I want to make sure my students do not lose the habit of learning,” says Kawuki, who also helps his teachers compile lessons for students. “I am concerned about the pandemic, but I love my profession. It’s a vocation. My students need to be busy. They need to know we think about them, about their future.”

The head teacher’s concern echoes those of other teachers and researchers. UNESCO warns that “Covid-19 school closures around the world will hit girls hardest” and that will lead to the increase of “[…] drop-out rates which will disproportionately affect adolescent girls, further entrench gender gaps in education, and lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early and forced marriage.”

Afraid that she would be forced to drop out of school, Bernadetta decided to stay in Kampala with her mom when her dad took two of her six siblings back to their village to tend to the farm.  When the head teacher called to say he would be delivering school notes personally, she was speechless.

“I’m pleased teachers are still connecting with us even though we are far away by giving us these notes,” celebrates Bernadetta. “It shows that they still care about our education, and they don’t want us to forget what we have learned.”

Bernadetta is the oldest girl of seven children, from one to nineteen years old. Since the beginning of the lockdown, back in March, her routine has changed dramatically. Instead of going to school early, she looks after her younger siblings and takes care of household chores in the morning. In the afternoon, she calls school friends to check on them and also to ask questions about school lessons she didn’t understand. With children running and screaming all day, Bernadetta is forced to study in the evenings, at least three times a week.

“Until I joined Luigi Giussani High School, I never thought I would be able to study. I was born in a low-income family, and my father always told me that when I grew up, I would take care of our farm,” says Bernadetta, whose school fees are paid through AVSI Distant Support Program. “I want to finish school, and become a nurse to interact with people, learn from them, and take care of them.”

For now, her biggest dream is to be able to go back to school. She is confident that day will come soon:

“Everything that has a beginning has an end. This will end,” says Bernadetta, whose uniform is ready in closet. “The night before the first day back at school, I won’t sleep.”