Accessible parent education will ease COVID-19 learning

UNESCO describes literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. It is beyond the ability to read, write and count.

The 8th of September was declared International Literacy Day by UNESCO in 1966 to stress the importance of literacy for individuals, communities, and societies.

This year’s theme is Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, especially on the role of educators and changing pedagogies.

History shows that there are changes in life that have to be resisted, and those that have to be accepted.

The COVID-19 virus has flipped most people’s lives upside down. For some, it was time up, but others have come to stay and for good.

They are the ones we term the “new normal”.

Some of the changes have included school children studying virtually.

The television set had for long been termed as a major entertainment box till the closure of schools.

The education sector in Uganda has been under nationwide lockdown since March and it is threatening to be a dead academic year for most Ugandan students unless the president’s scientists advise otherwise.

The children continue to stay home and have been availed with educational materials to keep them engaged.

Newspapers have had educational pullouts, and some television stations air these lessons for students.

The teachers have had to send revision materials via emails and conduct classes via zoom and social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.

The ministry of education has promised to provide radio stations to every household in Uganda in support of homeschooling with plans to distribute Ipads underway.

Whereas before, parents toiled hard to afford a teacher to school their children, the teachers are now socially distanced if they haven’t yet resorted to doing odd jobs for economic survival.

One wonders who is supervising the learning of the children now that the teachers cannot access many of them.

This has left the children in the academic hands of parents, who have had to supervise, mark, and monitor the progress of their children which is a little cringe-worthy.

It is sad to imagine how it was for children quarantined with their parents or guardians that are illiterate or semi-illiterate.

According to the 2020 analytical report on education and literacy in Uganda, by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) 4.7 million Ugandans are illiterate.

The issue of literacy is a key component of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to which Uganda subscribes.

The Sustainable Development Goal 4 targets include ensuring all young people achieve literacy and numeracy and those adults who lack these skills are allowed to acquire them.

This lockdown has had parents inevitably become educators.

As we move forward, there is a clear need to stress a kind of compulsory homeschooling for all children.

It is where the government strategizes to involve parents in the supervision of the academic activities of their children.

Teaching methods should include a week or days of homeschooling so that parents get familiar with what content children are learning.

Teachers should get parent-assisted projects at the end of every major topic that requires and demands the involvement of the adult with whom the child stays.

How about making it compulsory for each school to offer subsidized adult education for the dear parents who need some literacy improvement?

In the end, more educated families will enable us to reach the middle-income status as the larger population will have the knowledge and understanding of the fiscal policies to make proper investments that will stimulate economic growth.

It is a good thing that the national task force led by the honorable Prime Minister is composed of many educators who understand the importance of literacy.

I implore them to call for family literacy as we move post-COVID-19 or as we learn to live with the changes it has brought.

By Stella Namatovu

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