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Uganda’s schools re-open, ending world’s longest lockdown

KAMPALA, UGANDA (AP) – Uganda’s schools re-opened to students yesterday, ending the world’s longest school disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The re-opening caused traffic congestion in some areas of the capital, Kampala, and students were seen carrying their mattresses in the streets, a back-to-boarding school phenomenon not witnessed here for nearly two years.

Uganda’s schools have been fully or partially shut for more than 83 weeks, the world’s longest disruption, according to figures from the United Nations (UN) cultural agency. The shutdown affected more than 10 million learners.

The East African country of 44 million people first shut down its schools in March 2020, shortly after the first coronavirus case was confirmed on the African continent. Some classes were reopened to students in February 2021, but a total lockdown was imposed again in June as the country faced its first major surge.

For many parents, the re-opening was long overdue.

“Inevitably, we have to open up schools,” said Felix Okot, the father of a six-year-old kindergartner. “The future of our kids, the future of our nation, is at stake.”

The country’s schools cannot “wait forever” for the pandemic’s end, he warned.

The protracted school lockdown proved controversial in a country where measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus were ignored by many.

Vaccine scepticism, even among health workers, remains a problem, with growing reports of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards sold in downtown Kampala.

Pupils wear face masks as they attend class at Kitante Primary School in Kampala. PHOTO: AP
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