The COVID19 Pandemic is truly global, with so many lasting impacts.
Here in Uganda, we have been in a state of lockdown since late March.
Thankfully, while watching what was happening around the world, we anticipated some restrictions were on their way before anything was announced. So The Shepherd Center started to make preparations before the country at large.
For over two months, we have experienced most businesses being closed (thankfully many are now able to reopen), and all schools were evacuated and shut down. Since most of our boys at TSC (and the majority of children in this country) go to boarding schools, closing of schools for an extended period of time leads to significant shift in lifestyle, especially for many Uganda families who struggle with poverty.
Additionally, we have not been allowed to drive personal vehicles for several weeks. Along with personal vehicles, public transportation has been halted. Since a small percentage of people have personal vehicles in Uganda, the country depends heavily on public transportation: busses, taxis (14 passenger vans that often carry 20+, or small cars), or motorcycles (bodas). So this has been a serious alteration to everyday life. People are limited to walking or riding bicycles. Of course the reasoning behind this is to cut off the possibilities of spreading the cases of the virus throughout the country. The president placed many more specific restrictions on Uganda in addition to these.
Meanwhile, Uganda has kept the officially confirmed number of cases relatively low throughout this lockdown, until recently. One of the few types of vehicles that have been allowed to move during this time is trucks which are traveling throughout East Africa. It has been discovered that many of these truckers had been exposed to COVID19, so testing facilities were set up at the borders. This has led to spikes in the numbers; this week the count crossed over the 500 mark. Up to now, no COVID19-related deaths have been recorded.
In June, some restrictions were lifted in this nation-wide lockdown. However, the restrictions have not been lifted nation-wide. Any districts that lie along a Ugandan border are still operating under most of the country’s restrictions. Kabale, where The Shepherd Center is located, is one of those border districts. We are hopeful that before the month of June is over we will be able to drive personal vehicles and use public transportation again.
Schools in Uganda are nationally run, and subject to the government’s scheduling, etc. One class of primary (elementary) students and two classes of secondary students are subject to national exams. The government has discussed the intention to have these three classes return to school in order to be able to take their exams. Usually those exams occur in November, with the rest of the students finishing their school year in late November or early December. It has been proposed that these students should take their exams in January of 2021. However, their return date hasn’t been determined yet. It is possible these three classes may return to school by the end of June. As for the rest of the students….we don’t know yet. Rumors are circulating that maybe they won’t go back to school at all in 2020 but no official decision has been announced. So, we just continue to wait to hear what exactly we will be able to do with our students for the rest of this year. Of course, considering the realities of living in a third-world country, distance learning is just not a realistic expectation for the population at large.
Most of our boys have spent this time in lockdown staying with some family members. Throughout the course of the restrictions, some families have really struggled to care for the boys. Through the generous donations of several friends of TSC, we have been able to supply some food and soap to the boys’ families. A few boys have returned to TSC, and are staying on campus again. The staff has been busy doing various activities with the boys on campus, as well as going on home visits to see the boys who are off-site. We are happy to report that all of the boys are currently healthy and doing well considering the circumstances.
Usually we hold monthly outreaches to the boys still on the streets, but that has been a little complicated with restrictions that are in place. Nevertheless, TSC was able to meet with many of these boys, who are struggling more than usual. TSC provided food, soap, and masks for them.
The Shepherd Center is blessed to have faithful sponsors, making it possible to carry on the work of The Shepherd Center in these unique days. Praise God that He has kept us safe and healthy in the midst of this worldwide crisis. We continue to rely on Him to bring us through it all.
Thanks for your prayers and support!