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Lockdown Frustrating My Medical Ambition, 12-Year-Old Congolese Laments

Twelve-year-old Alex Abigail from the Democratic Republic of Congo wants to become a doctor. But with the schools still closed in Uganda, Abigail knows this will not happen unless she goes to school.

“We want to be better people. Personally, I want to become a doctor. That is why it is important for me and other children to go to school. We cannot achieve our dreams without going to school. I want to help my parents and guardians who have helped me during my school days. For me to help them, I need to first complete my education,” she explains.

In March 2020, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni ordered the closure of schools to stop the spread of COVID-19. More than 15 million learners were sent home.

Abigail noted that she misses her school uniform and the sweater which she hasn’t worn for a long time. During the morning of the interview, she wore the sweater as it was a bit chilly.

Abigail is grateful for the learning materials she received but adds that she would prefer to be in class.

“It is good to have these learning materials, but they are not better than school. I kind of miss school a lot. If I could have some magic, I would just say, let school start right away,” says Abigail who is living in Arua District in West Nile sub-region.

Asked how she is using the printed materials, Abigail says the materials have questions which they write down in their notebooks and fill in answers. Their neighbour, a teacher, helps to review the answers and guides them on which answer is correct or wrong.

In the first term, we were supposed to have ball games and in the second term, music, dance and drama

The Ministry of Education and Sports, with support from partners like UNICEF, printed learning materials and distributed them to learners across the country. UNICEF supported the printing of the second batch of learning and study materials targeting 2.5 million children in 48 districts (including 37 districts with poor learning performance and refugee-hosting districts, among others). Arua and 10 other refugee-hosting districts in West Nile sub-region benefited from the second batch, which was distributed to refugees and host communities.

Abigail says that it has been a long time since she last went to school. When they told them not to return to school, Abigail was shocked and helpless. Although she is aware that schools had to close to prevent them from contracting COVID-19, Abigail dreams about going to school for just one day.

“I miss my friends, my teachers and headteacher. The headteacher is so nice and prayerful. I miss the school activities. In the first term, we were supposed to have ball games and in the second term, music, dance and drama,” she says with a sad face.

Abigail, a Primary 7 (P.7) candidate has used the lockdown to revise notes of P.7, P.6 and P.5 from Monday to Friday. On weekends, she rests and also plays. “I read a lot these days. Much more than when I was going to school,” she adds.

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