How School Teachers are Managing During Quarantine

Ugandan Teacher

No sector has been spared by the pandemic things have had to change drastically. How are teachers keeping learners engaged with zero physical contact and will they be able to make up for lost time, against all odds?

As many sectors stand still during this lockdown, we reached out to teachers about their current state of affairs, how they are dealing with the sudden work disruption, their livelihoods, job security, how they are keeping learners engaged with zero physical contact and whether they will be able to make up for lost time, against all odds.

Diana Achieng, Mariam High School, Kisaasi
I am fine social distancing, washing my hands and staying at home to keep safe and I hope all teachers and students are doing the same.

In terms of income, I personally know salaries are going to come in late because most private schools depend on students being at school.

Though on a lockdown, a teacher is never redundant, and I make this negative situation (Covid pandemic ) into a positive one by bettering myself.

I read more and research about better teaching methodologies. I also reflect on how best I can make my learners better – through platforms that incorporate life lessons, skills, morals; social, political and economic issues, in line with what I teach. As for job security, I hadn’t thought about it but in the event that the pandemic doesn’t end soon, some schools may need to lay off some workers and so, might not be so secure.

When school resumes, I plan to be postive but there will ofcourse be some panicking and trying to catch up with things.

In terms of what can be done to makeup for the lost time, we will cross the bridge when we get there as for now, let us focus on praying that it ends soon.

Emma Kimuli, Teach for Uganda fellow, Isenda Primary School, Mayuge

I chose to stay at the school so that I could remain in touch with my learners in the village.

I have used this time to reorganise my garden by planting more seeds in addition to weeding. Before the schools closed, I really had no time to be in the garden.

I continue to meet my learners on a daily basis and accord them assignments individually. They go to their respective homes, do the assignments and then one by one, they return to have their work checked.

This way of engaging the learners is one of the few available options in the village given that the parents here have no access to smartphones and any other form of sophisticated technology.

I am using the other time to read books that make me a better teacher, for example, I am currently reading Teach Like a champion by Lemov Doug such that when schools resume, I will teach in a very effective way so as to effectively cover up the gaps that have been caused by the closure of the schools.

I am also teaching some children and teachers via WhatsApp for example, I partnered with a Teach For Nigeria fellow and we are holding a two-week-long online scratch programming class via whatsApp. We have so far concluded week one of this online class and have impacted over 100 educators and children in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana combined.

The closure of schools has also enabled me to connect more deeply with educators across the globe as we share ideas on how to make our learners in the less privileged communities continue to learn amidst the closure of the schools.

We have even come up with ideas that we shall implement once the schools resume, for example, I will be closely working with a team in Ghana to run the i-Literate club(i stands for individual here and the literacy in these clubs will cover both English and digital literacy) in our respective schools and we shall keep the clubs of the respective schools in touch with one another.

I am using the other time to improve my digital skills, for example, I have signed up for courses via Pluralsight on cloud computing. In a nutshell, I am so engaged even as schools remain closed and I hope to inspire the teachers available to also join me to engage the learners as we keep waiting for the opening of schools.
When schools reopen, we shall cover up for the lost time through; teaching on Saturdays for half a day, extending the school closing time by 30 minutes daily. So children will leave school by 5:30pm and not the usual 5 pm. Lessons shall also begin by 7:40am daily instead of the normal 8am.

Supporting self-learning techniques such that children can learn as much as possible even in the absence of teachers.

Enhancing peer to peer learning techniques such that the children can learn from one another as well.

Currently, I am only praying that schools reopen because I predict that if they are not reopened, the government might consider reducing on the salaries of teachers and if the worst comes to the worst, some might not even be paid. Hence, there is a threat to job security in the long run for example in the event that schools remain closed for over five months.

Ronald Aheirwe, Mukono Town Academy
It is intresting how we were among the first persons to be asked to stay home. Of course like a war zone, there is hardly time to prepare yourself so I had the least time to prepare all the take home for my learners. One must adjust with the times and situation at hand, it is not easy, but we are trying to survive. I thank God that I don’t rent which is one of the great challenges people have to worry about because these are times when you are not sure of your next pay cheque.

Since I am not in class I am kept busy with a poultry project at home. However, without means of transport and money to sustain init, it is not as easy. And of course the longer this takes the more we shall have to think out of the box.

With the sudden redundancy, it is my small project that keeps me engaged. I also teach my boys at home to keep them busy and up to date with their school work.

I don’t feel my job security threatened because my employer assured us that we shall return to work when this is over, no matter when.

I am sure that given the Ministry of Education programme for the term and terms ahead, I will be able to make up for lost time. Of course with things overdue, this will be so challenging, but as teachers we must make up for lost time using all legal means at hand; use of remidal time will help make up for lost time.

Before public transport was suspended, we had been asked to prepare some notes for our learners which would have been processed from school and sent to learners through their parents and guardians but this was not possible, so we shall just have to catch up.

Gloria Dei Okwi, Mt.St.Mary’s College Namagunga
During this lockdown, I have actually learnt to look for the positives in this negative situation and it hasn’t been so bad. My life, apart from the absence of work is normal. Of course, now, because we live in uncertainty, I have been cautiously spending my income, despite being paid.

With more time on my hands, I do more research and I will use this to enable my students understand concepts better in future. No, my job security isn’t threatened.
Yes, I will be able to make up for all the time lost and so much more. I am actually running an online Google classroom in which I teach my students and we are making most of this time.
Additionally, through different social media channels, I definately am keeping in touch with my students and I am grateful that most of them have a connection to me through social media and the online classroom as well.

Deborah Zawedde, Gayaza High School
Personally, I am using the time to equip myself with new knowledge. I teach literature, and during this time I’ve done lots of reading not only for the set books but for personal nourishment.

I prepared well ahead of time and did some shopping but of course, spending daily without a consistent income affects a great deal. That means one is behind in things they planned to do.
I am trying not to be redundant. I read, watch and also exercise in the evenings. Plus, students keep asking for clarification on the work they are doing.

My job security is not threatened. I am actually working even through this ‘holiday’.
To be able to catch up, the strategy we used was to send students home with work that was left on the outlines. So, much of the work they are doing during this time is what was supposed to be covered. It is more of expository and research. When they return, it will be going through what they discovered, (Guidance on what they already know)

It eats into the actual syllabus coverage time because that is work we would be done with already. A term extension may be necessary to cover the same before getting into new terms.
To keep in touch with students, all classes have WhatsApp groups through with academic discussions have continued to take place. Students, through the parents, send questions but for classes like S5 and S6, students engage in discussion with teachers online.

The e-learning platform also fosters the continuous engagements as some parents even contact individual teachers for clarification on links and work sent.

Ivan Samuel Womala , Teach for Uganda fellow, Bwihula Primary School, Mayuge District.
It is absurd that this situation has hit every sector very hard and mainly, for the education sector in the rural areas, it is really terrible.

As a teacher, it has not been easy, because stepping in class every day as a routine becomes part of you and now it is getting close to a month seated at home and the learners that need follow up can’t have it. My work is to ensure that the learners keep reminded about their learning and that has been effective during school days because everyday, I would check their books, find out how they are doing but in this situation, I can’t follow up on all that.

I now spend my days jogging /exercising in the mornings, have breakfast and make follow up calls to the parents who really care about their children’s learning. This is a time I get to connect with the parents, talk to the children themselves on where they are finding difficulties with the text books they took home and, where possible, I tell them what to do, though it is really tricky.

I am a volunteer teacher and a leader and for me, a time like this is about serving selflessly to disadvantaged communities without payment. Though in monetary terms, companies are closing down, and in a number of institutions, workers will be laid off.

I believe we will be able to make up for lost time. Like every term, you seat down and plan, and know your part to play in the school. Even if schools don’t open on April 27, like the Ministry had said, there will be a time when we will come back to school and help these learners.

I am not saying it will be easy because some children will come back when they have forgotten what they studied, there will be need of reminding them what they had covered before continuing with teaching.

Personally, I have already developed a plan to do extra lessons in the mornings and evenings, 30 minutes per session and that is one hour in a day to have the load covered.

We gave our learners text books to go with and revise when school was closing and some parents have been responsible. Sometimes they call you to tell you the progress of the learners but also, I can sometimes call them to find out how the learner is proceeding with their learning.

I know that the level of assessment may not be as effective as it is in class, but at least it is something. Before, they stopped us from jogging in public, I would jog around the community, find some of these learners and I would briefly interact with them about their learning, but now, I can’t.


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