By David Maclaren Kiiza
After two years of none study due to the covid 19 pandemic, Uganda is re-opening schools from Monday January 10.
Uganda is officially reopening schools for pre-primary, primary and secondary schools with a revised lower secondary curriculum for senior one to senior four to commence with students who are currently in senior two.
The curriculum is an abridged one extracted from the existing running for a period of two-three years and this applies only to the entry levels with the ministry of education having completed training 260 master trainees to outreach this abridged curriculum.
Government has so far spent Ush30.4bn to print 6 million copies of the 20 subjects selected in this abridged curriculum ready to be distributed to 5,502 schools countrywide which include 3,956 private schools,1,179 government owned / aided schools and 367 community schools in 171 local governments with no charge to be incurred to buy any book.
Members of Parliament, Resident District Commissioners and other stakeholders shall supervise this rollout and ensure that books reach out to their definite destinations.
In March 2020, all educational facilities in the country were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the National Planning Authority (NPA), up to 30 percent of students are expected to not return to their school desks in January due to teen pregnancy, early marriage and child labour.
Between March 2020 and June this year, the country reported a 22.5-percent jump in pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 24, data from UNICEF show.
More boys dropped out of school after the first school closure, according to the National Assessment Progress in Education-NAPE report.
Young women, abandoning hopes of going to school, are getting married and starting families instead. School buildings are being converted into businesses or health clinics. Teachers are quitting, and disillusioned students are taking menial jobs like selling fruit or mining for gold.
Some learners had just reported back to school last year and hardly after a week, there was a second wave of Covid-19 and schools were closed again. Much as there are schools that have been teaching online, the majority of the learners in the country did not get that opportunity.
With all the time these children have been at home, some will not find it easy to adapt to the new term and the school environment. Some children, who lost their parents in the second wave as a result of Covid-19, may be traumatized.
Others who did not have an opportunity to continue with homeschooling or online learning will get promoted just to the next class but their friends who continued learning will be one or two classes ahead of them.
Some parents who lost jobs may not be able to take back their children to school. These children will be at home nursing their own challenges. Some nice teachers may have moved on and may never come back to class and children will miss them.
School vans that children were used to may not be allowed on the road like before. If you don’t have a car, you will struggle with dropping and picking your children from school.
Some private schools are closed due to financial constraints and children will have to find their way in new schools. Other schools are not in good shape and learners may start with general cleanliness. The lower secondary had started on a new curriculum shortly a month before schools were closed.
Both teachers and learners will struggle with acclimatizing to new changes and getting back to class.
Amidst all these challenges, the third wave is roaring around and learners may not be sure if they will not be sent home again. Schools will have to observe SOPs in order to safeguard learners from infections.
Therefore, there will be some inconveniences in school settings and rules.
In September, Education Minister Janet Museveni – who is also the country’s first lady – defended her policy to keep schools closed, saying the decision was intended to protect the estimated 15 million students from the threat posed by COVID-19.
Ministry of Education and Sports has outlined guidelines in regard to schools re opening and these include;
No mandatory Covid-19 tests to learners in schools. Learners who are 18 years and above that were not vaccinated at home will only get vaccinated at school with the help of Ministry of Health but not under school arrangement. Learners with pre-existing medical health conditions like HIV/AIDS, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma should be put into account before vaccination is done.
Countrywide, teachers with first jab are 70%, those with second jab are 32% and teachers who are not vaccinated should not be allowed in any class before getting at least their first jab.
Learners who are pregnant and young mothers should be given extra attention with counselling, antenatal care and psychologically be managed to allow them return to class to continue with their studies.
Schools have been advised by the Education Minister not to hike school fees/charges for the first term but should remain in comparison with the previous fees before lockdown.
No new charges say functional fees, development fees and others should be levied by schools.
SOPs are to be observed by all schools and parents or guardians are tasked to avail or provide their children with enough masks for private, government and community schools. Surveillance costs will not be paid by learners because government through Ministry of Health is committed to deal with this issue.