On the evening of 6 June, the president addressed the nation and finally announced what we were all dreading and yet expecting: since our COVID numbers have been increasing, Uganda is largely locked down again. All schools and churches are closed again, weddings and funerals can only have 20 attendees, and offices are to be staffed at 30% of capacity. People are free to travel – within their district. Fortunately, Kampala/Wakiso/Mukono counts as one district as most Kampala workers live in the other two districts, so I have a bit more freedom than many. The airport is still open, but since cross-district travel is banned, how does one leave Entebbe?
What makes this lockdown worse is that it’s for 42 days. Yes. Six weeks. I was stunned when the president said that. I’m still processing it. It doesn’t seem real. It’s so long. I think part of the reason for the 42 days is to avoid the extensions of the lockdown that happened last year. We are off session in September, and some of my students have already told me that they expect to see me in January – they are expecting that the lockdown will be extended, and that they will not return in mid-July.
I watch the Twitter feed for #M7Address during speeches because those are my people in how they express their angst via jokes and sarcasm. Yet humor and sarcasm mask real pain. The first lockdown was terrible: people could not work, kids did not go to school, and the isolation was horrible. The internet and social media shut down during the election was likely far more fiscally punitive, as people truly could not work, and were much more isolated. I enjoyed the first day of silence, but the internet isolation in the days after made me quite anxious. I’ve never been so happy to have the internet restored in my life.
So now here we are in a redux of March 2020 with students fleeing campus, some of whom had just arrived (late, but that’s neither here nor there at this point). International students must have COVID tests to enter and to leave, and they are expensive. They can elect to stay on campus and make those arrangements with the university, for which I am grateful.
But this is all so, so much. I am grateful that we have an elearning platform in place and ready for teaching and learning. I am grateful to have a role in that. But I am seriously grieving having my students leave again. We were using a blended model this semester: half of our lecture hours online, and half in the classroom. I was looking forward to meeting my students in person and discussing what I’d posted in the video lectures, but now that’s gone for more than half of the semester. We were going to hold our July graduation online, with a representative from each class being physically present, but graduation has been deferred.
Some friends and I joke that the unofficial motto of Uganda is “you’ll be fine.” And ultimately, all will be fine. But in the meantime – it’s so very hard. Please pray for continued wisdom for all our leaders, and for our students and staff as we continue to find our way forward.