Uganda enforced the longest period of school closures worldwide – 22 months – during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies of the predicted and already visible impact of COVID-19 on education in sub-Saharan Africa are beginning to reveal how inequities that affected children and their families prior to the pandemic have intensified during and after school closures. It is estimated that 15 million pupils have not attended school in Uganda for almost two years. Other effects include a 22.5% increase in pregnancies among Ugandan school-going girls and young women aged 10-24 between March 2020 and June 2021. There was also an increase in child labour from 21% to 36%, affecting girls in particular. 354,736 teenage pregnancies were registered in 2020 across the country with most happening in the Rwenzori region, and 290,219 cases were recorded from January to September 2021 as an effect of COVID 19 lockdown and thus drop out rates skyrocketed in the country. The recent HIV/AIDs statistics indicate an increase in the prevalence of HIV/AIDs among young people especially adolescent girls and young women with most of the recorded new infections among young people. From evidence collected at the grassroots, young people’s SRHR issues have not only been showcased by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic but also exacerbated by the same. Reports of girls dropping out as a result of menstruation and engaging in sex work in order to access menstrual hygiene products (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JErRdJdqS64), knowledge gaps in schools in regards to sexual reproductive health and contraception methods among others.
As a way of addressing these challenges, RAHU under Right Here Right Now has conducted a Teachers’ training in Fortportal -Kabarole and Kasese with support from the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES). In the training led by MOES facilitators, the teachers were trained on sexuality education and the components under the same as provided for the National Sexuality Education Framework which include sexuality and human growth and development, menstrual hygiene management, prevention of teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and positive living among students, GBV and Behavior change communication. According to the revised guidelines for the prevention and management of teenage pregnancy in school settings in Uganda, teachers need to appreciate that they have an obligation to ensure that children under their care are supported to complete school and are also free from violence which creates a need for capacity of teachers to be strengthened to effectively handle the effects of COVID 19 but also the different social issues that young people face. Therefore the training is intended to ensure that school administrations and head teachers are oriented and sensitised on effective approaches and methods for accelerated, but equitable learning that ensure no learner is left behind as provided for by the guidelines for reopening of Education institutions after the COVID pandemic and the other policies governing Sexuality education in schools as well as children rights in and out of school were discussed at length which mandate the provision of sexuality education in schools. With the aim of promoting access to Sexuality education in schools through the line ministries in order to curb the different SRHR issues of young people in school. Thus equipping teachers with the skills to ably undertake and administer sex education without bias.
During the training, teachers were able to share their experiences in working with young people mostly after the lockdown and expressed that some students’ behaviours drastically changed since the lockdown as some are now young mothers and it is therefore tricky for them to appropriately address their sexual reproductive health issues in a school setting and the concentrate in class among other issues. The teachers agreed to support the school engagement activities in their respective schools through the RAHU clubs when schools open for the third term and utilise this chance to amplify the knowledge learned in the training while conducting their lessons and teaching duties.