Updated: May 24, 2021
We’re seven months into the Ugandan school year right now, as of July. Four months ago, schools across the country, including Solid Rock, were ordered to close. Students in Uganda have now lost half of their school year, which begins in February and ends in November.
WHAT HAPPENED AT SOLID ROCK
Solid Rock Christian School, the Ugandan school supported by Zozu Project, was affected just the same as all the others. Only, for our students, the effects of shutting school doors had the potential to be far worse. Our students, coming from homes of poverty, depend on the two meals a day given at school. Many of their parents cannot read or write to help their child keep learning at home.
Teachers went home too, and then became stuck. When the school was closed, young teachers took the opportunity to go be with family in other districts. A few days later, the government suspended public transportation. For months, only a small team of local, hardworking staff has been doing all of the work required to get emergency food and hygiene kits to the children.
BUT AFTER FIVE MONTHS, THINGS ARE STARTING TO LOOK UP
Last week, the president of Uganda addressed the nation with updated regulations for the country. Our staff all listened in. Solid Rock School Principal, David, reported: “Almost all other sectors were allowed to resume with some standard operation procedures set up by the ministry of health. It’s only the churches and schools that he told to wait since they gather many people.” Some key points from the new rules that impact our work were:
1. Schools will continue to be closed until at least September, when a further decision will be announced 2. Buses will be allowed to operate at limited capacity 3. Food markets are opened 4. Cloth masks must be worn by everyone, everywhere, outside of the home.
While the prolonged school closure continues to be difficult, the worst of the food crisis has passed, more teachers are able to return, and it’s time to start a serious program of home education.
Last week, the teachers that were able to return convened (outside, six feet away, with masks) to figure out how to teach the students in the homes. The plan is to prepare learning materials to be distributed to the children in their homes. This is a big deal! A few months ago, we had to get permission from the government just to pass out food. Needless to say, teachers and students are itching to get going again. According to one social studies teacher, they hope to keep the students “positively occupied.”
Since none of the children have internet in their homes, teachers are making packets to be hand-delivered. A child can read a portion of work and answer questions. After two weeks the teachers will collect it, grade them, give feedback, and hand out another portion of work. With over 450 students over a whole district to care for, this is going to require a lot of time and travel on the part of our teachers, but they are more than up for it.
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS
If you have ever traveled to Africa, you have probably learned that the motto is “be flexible.” Over the years of visiting Uganda, we have had prop planes delayed for hardware problems, 4 pm meetings that started at 5, and the first day of school change dates less than a month out. We Americans have had to learn how to have a flexible, open mindset that comes very naturally to our staff, the students, and their parents.
This community is able to work in a COVID world. With political wars, the Ebola outbreak, and famine-inducing droughts in the not too distant memory, they are more accustomed to life being changed dramatically in a day. Time and again we have witnessed our staff showing open-handedness to circumstances and the sovereignty of God. That open-handedness allows them to love their students freely, without concern for the vicissitudes of a life in poverty. When circumstances demanded that teachers become relief workers, they rose to the occasion with humility and faith in God. The children who depend on them are blessed for it.
Now, without classroom or teaching aids, they are educating the students without complaints. The students, while missing school, are happy to have something to do to learn. After all, many of them still remember the years when they received no education whatsoever. It may be difficult, but in times like these, the hard-won resilience of this community truly shines.
We still don’t know how long the school doors will be closed, but until then, keep the teachers and children in your prayers. We praise God for sustaining them over the last few months, and believe that He will continue to do so.