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SCHOOLS REOPENING: Gov’t finally sets 20th September

KAMPALA- News reaching our desk has revealed that Government has resolved to have schools reopened on September 20.

However, this will start with candidate classes and finalists in universities. Sources in the education ministry yesterday told Sunday Vision that the ministry had at last agreed with the COVID-19 National Task Force to have schools re-opened and that this decision, if there are no major changes, will soon be officially announced.

“The Government has finally agreed to have schools re-opened in a phased manner. After we have ascertained that schools can put in place the set Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the Government will okay the opening of the remaining classes,” a source said.

This development comes a day after the First Lady and education minister, Mrs Janet Museveni, wrote to finance minister, Matia Kasaija, asking him to release capitation grants for third term to the beneficiary schools.

In the letter, Mrs Museveni says: “I refer to the meeting held on September 1, 2020 by H.E the President and the National COVID-19 Task Force at State House Entebbe.

“The meeting resolved that a phased re-opening of schools, starting with candidate classes be implemented starting September 20, 2020.”

On the basis of the meeting, Mr.  Museveni says the capitation funds should be released so that the headteachers can plan for the reopening of schools.

The letter was copied to the President, Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, ministers of state for education, the secretary to the treasury, Keith Muhakanizi and the permanent secretary of the education  ministry, Alex Kakooza.

President Yoweri Museveni ordered the closure of all education institutions and places of worship, among others, in March, as one of the measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An estimated 15 million learners in 73,240 institutions and 548,192 teachers were affected. Although several economic activities have resumed in the Government’s phased lifting of the lockdown, schools, and places of worship, bars and night clubs remain closed to date.

Last month, the President ordered that the finance ministry releases sh20b to support the hundreds of thousands of teachers in 13,000 private schools.

Unlike Kenya which resolved to go for a dead year, Uganda, based on proposals from the health and education ministries, is still optimistic that the academic year can be salvaged.

Last week, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) indicated that final year students at healthrelated institutions and universities will report to their respective academic institutions on September 28.

However, the council set tight guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19.

On the reporting day, the guidelines say, all students will be required to attend mandatory COVID-19 training, infection prevention and control SOPs.

These will include mandatory testing of both staff and students, walk and ride to school and disinfection of institutions currently used as isolation centres.

In line with the President’s directive, the guidelines have banned congregational gatherings for fellowships, chapel or mosque prayers at the respective academic institutions. 

Students will also have restricted movement during their time at the institutions.

Occupancy of hostels should be in compliance with the health ministry’s social distancing SOPs.

The students will also be required to report with at least four reusable two layer cotton masks and institutions will be required to offer them sanitisers.

“A 50ml alcohol rub will initially be supplied to the institutions. Each student will be required to refill their bottle when they run out,” the NCHE guidelines read.

What others say

Makerere’s University deputy vice-chancellor associate Prof. Umar Kakumba says the university is set to receive the students.

“We have been preparing and we are ready to start as soon as the Government declares the opening.”

The vice-chancellor of Busitema University, Prof. Paul Waako, welcomed the reopening plans and said: “We will support the Government in all the arrangements set to ensure that our country’s education system keeps growing. 

We have lost so much time during the closure, but the university has also used this opportunity to improve its infrastructure and staff recruitment.”

Associate Prof. Krishna N. Sharma, the vice-chancellor of Victoria University, said the re-opening comes after most universities have set up the required SOPs.

“So many institutions have invested in preparing for the re-opening. I hope that it will be well managed by all institutions to avoid the spread of COVID-19,” he added.

Mike Kironde, the chairperson of Proprietors of Private Educational Institutions’ Association in Uganda, said it is good that the schools will be reopening, but added that some schools were still struggling to meet the SOPs.

Reporting by New Vision



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