There has been a significant and frightening increase in cases of COVID-19 in Uganda and Gulu. Gulu and Kampala have suddenly, been hard hit by the virus. In Kampala, at least I in 3 have it, Gulu has been registering over 100 cases per day which is worrying everyone. This is a country with no real testing, no comprehensive health care and no mass vaccination programme, so the true situation is and will be, much worse. On Sunday 6th the President announced, among other measures, the closure of all learning institutions/schools by Monday 7th June for 42 days, and that all teachers must be vaccinated before they get back to school.
How will this affect the Vplus vocational training programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu? Based on these directives, Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) who actually run the programme, has closed the VPlus school for 42 days. They have encouraged trainees either to go back to their internship placements if possible and COVID-19 safe to do so, or to try to begin their businesses at home. No one knows about anything about possible teacher vaccinations, sadly it seems unlikely in the context.
How to keep going?
Subsequent meetings between ETC of PWD (the UK based charity who match fund the Vplus programme with UK Aid) and GDPU agreed, that the fundamental aim was to combine safety with the underlying aim of keeping the programme going. There is of course no Government furlough system in Uganda and, traditionally, if you don’t work for whatever reason, you don’t get paid; there are no retainers. Primary school teachers for example will not be paid. But we do want to keep and look after the staff on the Vplus programme. Apart from the unfairness and basic obligations, if you don’t pay people they will find something else and not return.
In a meeting on the 8th June at GDPU, the programme managers asked the instructors and support staff how they could keep in touch safely with trainees and GDPU. The brainstorming session on how they could be useful to the students and justify continued payments, agreed on the following resolutions:
1- Each Instructor, Sign Language Interpreter, Literacy Facilitator and Guidance Councillor will have 6 students to follow up and support them remotely.
2- They will be facilitated with airtime of UGX 5000 each, to pay for phone contacts.
3- There will be a meeting every two weeks to give feedback, learnings, challenges and best practices on the follow up.
4- Sign language training to continue for the instructors and support staff every Wednesday to Friday morning 9:00-11:00am.
5 – Payment for June will be full and July will be half for the instructors.
6 – Matron will not get payment for July but her payment will come from her cleaning services.
7- GDPU has created a Vplus WhatsApp group page for easy communication and feedback sessions.
8 – Project coordinator will do the physical random follow up to check on the safety and well-being of students back on internship.
9 – All staff must take precautions and stay safe during these hard times.
10 – Security/watchmen will continue with full payments and are encouraged to be more vigilant.
The Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports has released the new time table for reopening of schools: 19-July 2021 All learners are expected to start school then. So, fingers crossed hoping for the best.
if you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. Many Thanks.