UK’s Special Envoy on Gender Equality visits Uganda

UK’s Special Envoy on Gender Equality visits Uganda

Kampala; The UK’s Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Gender Equality, and Director of Education, Gender, and Equality, Alicia Herbert OBE, visited Uganda from the 26 to 28 January to see first-hand the work the UK is doing to support girls and boys to access and benefit from quality education in Uganda.

It was also an opportunity for her to meet stakeholders and partners to discuss key issues in education in Uganda, following the full reopening of schools after almost two years.

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Alicia Herbert (3rd right) addresses media alongside MoES, UNICEF and British High Commission representatives

At a roundtable event at the High Commissioner’s Residence the Special Envoy met with Government of Uganda representatives, religious leaders and other key stakeholders to discuss the high levels of teenage pregnancy in Uganda, which have been exacerbated by the COVID school closures. They discussed the guidelines for re-entry of pregnant girls into schools and the need to roll out the Sexuality Education Framework in schools, to give access to information on reproductive health for girls and boys.

Ms Herbert OBE said:

“Some girls who become pregnant in African countries automatically lose their right to an education. Uganda has done the right thing by releasing guidelines to allow pregnant girls back in school. We must all respect the girl child’s right to an education.”

Ms Herbert OBE also visited Rhino Camp refugee settlement in West Nile and met girls who are receiving counselling and practical support to get back into school after early pregnancy. The work, delivered by a consortium of NGOs led by Save the Children, is funded by the global fund ‘Education Cannot Wait’ (ECW). The UK is a leading donor to ECW, which is supporting the implementation of Uganda’s policy for the integration of refugees into schools. Alicia also observed teachers delivering remedial lessons to students eager to learn after prolonged closures.

Learning recovery after COVID closures was a key theme for the visit and Ms Herbert also launched the UK’s community led learning project in Arua, which aims to mitigate the negative effects of school closures for up to 365,000 lower primary children over the next 12 months. Officiating the launch with the Commissioner of Basic Education from the Ministry of Education and Sports, Dr Cleophus Mugenyi, Alicia said:

“Foundational skills are the building blocks needed to make any progress in school and reap the full rewards of education. Therefore, they must be prioritised first.  Everything else will follow.  Prioritising foundational learning for all, is the smart as well as the right thing to do.”

The Special Envoy, together with the World Bank and UNICEF also launched a report by the prestigious Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP). The report, which was released globally on Wednesday 26th and locally in Uganda on Friday 28th, is titled: ‘Prioritizing Learning During COVID-19’. It provides recommendations from the GEEAP, an independent, cross-disciplinary body composed of leading education experts, including a Nobel Prize winner. It offers guidance on how education systems in low- and middle-income countries can reverse the learning losses and widening inequalities (gender, socioeconomic, and other) caused by the pandemic.

The launch which took place at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, was attended by Ms Ketty Lamaro, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES). The recommendations of the report state that governments should prioritise keeping schools open through COVID-19 to prevent further learning losses, and that foundational learning should be a priority.

The visit concluded with a small reception for Ugandan Chevening and Commonwealth Scholarship Alumni. The Special Envoy’s portfolio includes Scholarships and this was a chance for her to meet with Ugandan beneficiaries of the UK’s scholarship schemes and hear from them about their time studying in the UK.

Since its inception in 1982 the UK government has provided opportunities for 294 Ugandans to study in the UK under the Chevening Programme.

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