When President Museveni on March 18, 2020 announced the closure of schools including universities in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19, it affected many students from various universities who are now currently uncertain about their education. We spoke to some on how the lockdown has affected them.
Uncertain of the future
Prisca Ejang, a student from Kyambogo University, offering science with education (Math and economics) says that the lockdown has greatly affected her social life and career plans since she is a finalist.
Ejang, who expected to complete her studies in May and start a new life is now uncertain about what the future holds.
“I was excited that by May 5th, I would be done with campus and I was certain of getting employed. I was excited for my second internship that I would do it well and push for a better position. Now that only chance is not so certain at the moment,” she says sadly.
The lockdown also found her away from home at her grandparents’ home.
“This Covid-19 found me in Jinja, I travelled with a handbag just because I knew I was just home for one month. I don’t feel like I should celebrate a birthday this year because I have almost no achievement.”
She adds that it is hard for her to revise: “It’s hard to read campus books when you don’t have a target, you know the education system of Uganda is almost exam-oriented. So I prefer reading other books within this time like motivational books, things that will build my personality.”
Disorganisation of the school calendar
Racheal Noella Owembabazi a student of Uganda Christian University (UCU), Kampala Campus, who is studying law and is in her fourth year, says the situation has created uncertainty about and has disorganised the school calendar.
“Although UCU had finished carrying out lectures and assessing coursework for this semester, the pandemic still frustrated the university’s effort, unlike some universities which still had lectures.”
UCU which usually has two intakes has to restructure itself so that it can accommodate the two intakes.
“Students expected to be off the semester by now are still on the semester, and there are other students expected to report for their semester which is going to be tricky for the university and expensive to handle different intakes at the same time,” she said.
Owembabazi says she is uncertain about the future of her graduation and studies since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“For us in our final year, we were hoping to be done with exams by April and graduate by July but with this uncertainty, we still don’t know when exams and graduation will be done since the Ministry of Education banned the online take-home exams,” she says.
Also, working on the final year projects and dissertation is hard since students can’t do the necessary research.
“Coronavirus outbreak has also denied us access to our lecturers and tutors who help, guide and correct us when making our dissertation,” she says.
Covid-19 has also had an economic impact on families and Owembabazi says although she was able to go back home, it is costly for her family since the lockdown is longer than the usual holidays.
I had already paid tuition and hostel fees
When Prima Niwampeire, a medical student at Kampala International University heard about the lockdown, she did not think it was serious.
“I first heard the rumours of the lockdown towards the end of my three-week break from school. I thought it was a joke. My father and I went ahead and transferred tuition to the university account. I left Kampala for Jinja that morning (Jinja hospital is one of the university’s training sites), searched for a house, paid rent for three months and began my settlement plans.”
But the lockdown was confirmed. “Unfortunately, that evening, the President confirmed the rumour we had earlier heard and the feeling wasn’t nice at all considering all the expenses and transfers we had just made,” she says.
Apart from that, she was looking to finishing medical school.
“I was on a countdown to finish the course. It had been a whole five years of hustling with medical school and I could finally see light at the end of the tunnel,” she says.
Akampurira thought the lockdown would last for only a month, but it has taken longer. She adds that the university assured the students that they would hold online classes but all have been unsuccessful.
“The first week of lockdown, I tried a few assignments that had been posted on the class page but they were unsuccessful considering the course is a bit more practical than theoretical and there was no morale as well,” she says.
Akampurira who was lucky to get home before the ban on public transport decided to find a way to keep practicing what she was taught at school.
“In the third week, I decided to start volunteering at a certain medical centre near home to keep the medical knowledge alive in me,” she says.
She is now mostly worried about the accountability of tuition that had been transferred, the rent that she had paid and didn’t use, but most importantly, the continuity of the course and how the academic year will be rescheduled.
“It’s sad but I am happy that I am alive and safe.”
Online classes are a challenge but they are the future
Emmanuel Bucyana, 24 years old, a fifth-year medical student at Kampala International University (Western Campus) and a student leader, says the lockdown found him at campus in Bushenyi, Ishaka.
“When the President made a directive for all institutions to allow students to go home, the university immediately issued a statement in respect of the directive. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to travel at that particular time, and when I had planned to travel, the lockdown came in,” he said.
Bucyana says that the lockdown is a new experience for him and everyone since he is not used to having such restrictions. He says that as much as the university has adapted online classes, they are not as effective as the live classroom.
“I should say that I’ve tried to adapt to this scheme quickly. The online classroom is here to stay with or without the pandemic, so we have to adapt,” he says.
The online classroom comes with many challenges however since not all students have the necessary gadgets to attend. However, he says, the university is doing its best to ensure that all students can access the information that they missed.
Bucyana also says that he is using the lockdown as an opportunity to focus on other passions.
“I am doing a lot of writing and reading self-growth books. I am also very passionate about Young People Empowerment and at the start of the lockdown, I opened up a YouTube channel. With the help of friends, I shoot empowerment videos and uploaded them on my channel and the message has reached many people.”
Challenges finding meals
Juliet Kangume, a second year student of Ndejje University reveals that she was unable to travel back to her home because the lockdown was announced at night, before she could travel.
“By the time the President banned public transport, it was late at night which made it impossible for me to travel back to Fort Portal,” she says.
Kangume adds that the lockdown came with so many challenges such as shortage of food. She has been forced to feed on porridge, which she stocked at the beginning of the semester.
“My biggest problem is the challenge of food. The food I had stocked is finished. I have to limit myself on what I eat and in a day, I eat porridge as I wait for what tomorrow brings,” she says.
Kangume who rents outside the university says that her landlord does not understand the situation at hand.
“My landlord keeps asking for rent money. I can’t call home and ask for money because the lockdown has also affected my parents since they aren’t working,” she said.
The continuous extension of the lockdown worries Kangume because she doesn’t know when school will resume. She adds that the university gave the students reading material but she is not comfortable with reading something without explanation from the lecturers.
Solomon Matanda, a student of Petroleum Geoscience and Production at Makerere University narrates his story.
“It was a Wednesday, 18th March when Museveni declared closure of schools for 30 days due to confirmation of our first case of Covid-19.
I remember that day so well because everyone was anxious about what the president would say because campus had become tight with a lot of coursework coming in, tests along the way, presentations etc. so everyone eagerly waited for the address at 5pm.
About an hour to 5 o’clock, I rushed to Mary Stuart Hall because my friends had a TV so yes the news found me in a girl’s room.
When it clocked 5pm and the presidential address started, the whole place was as silent as a grave. About 30mins into the address the president announced the closure of schools and universities and there were shouts of jubilation; no one watched the end of the address. Students ran around campus singing songs of joy and praising the President. Back at my hall, students were drumming and shouting while others were preparing to go to the bar.
I for one I was very happy because I had an assignment due that Friday and a test. I also had a presentation to prepare for so the closure saved me a great deal.
Early the next day at around 12 o’clock, I was able to go back home.
So am I studying? The answer is no. Why? Because I have no hope of school opening again this year though I have hope of the university giving everyone a CGPA of 5.0 for this semester.
But I read books, not necessarily classwork but novels, books related to disciplines in my course and I’m doing some online courses. I just stay home, read a book, watch a movie and play soccer.
I’ve also learned how to cook and do some basic house duties.
My biggest worry however is repeating a year at campus that’s if this year is taken as a dead year and the stress that will come if school is reopened. The other worry is being unproductive all year round because most of the things have been shut down so you can’t easily engage yourself in gigs that would give you some pocket change.