Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The chairperson of the Parliamentary Health Committee, Dr. Charles Ayume has advised the education ministry not to rush adecision to reopen schools until the safety of learners and other people in the sector is guaranteed.
The MP Koboko Municipality made the remarks at Kololo ceremonial grounds at a function on Friday where First Lady and Education minister Janet Kataha Museveni met principals of several Technical and Vocational Education and Training-TVET institutions. She handed over to them vehicles bought by the government under the Uganda Skills Development Programme.
Dr. Ayume who was until the 2021 election an assistant in the Statehouse health monitoring unit, told the education minister that the sector should not be coerced by either internal or external pressures, but rather take the decision of school reopening with precaution.
Dr. Ayume’s remarks come at a time when several players in the education sector including fellow parliamentarians are tasking the education ministry to issue out an official road map for school reopening as the first step towards planning on resumption of physical teaching and learning activities.
Besides the call for the said road map, many educationists and policymakers are wondering why up to now Uganda remains an island of school closure in the region. Uganda is ranked number one among countries that have closed schools for the longest period in the world.
The Koboko legislator says although the measures on COVID-19 seem to be radical, they have saved the country from being hit hard by the pandemic thus justifying the need to keep education institutions closed for a few more months than risking the lives of children, school staff, and parents.
As the country debate the issue of school reopening, there have been voices telling the government to look at the effect of prolonging school closures on the economy and society at large. A recent report by UNICEF indicated that School closures have created a very big shadow crisis for children which might take decades to be recovered.
Beyond falling behind on their education, the report shows that many children are missing out on school-based meals, experiencing social isolation and increased anxiety, and being exposed to abuse and violence not to mention dropout, child labour, and child marriage.
However, Museveni re-echoed that schools will be reopened next year but she expressed worry about the slow uptake of vaccines by teaching and non-teaching staff in education institutions which she says might affect the school reopening process.
The Education minister also appealed to principals of TVET institutions and other institutions of higher learners which were allowed to reopen in November to ensure that they don’t relax on enforcing the COVID-19 guidelines.
At the function, 16 TVET institutions received vehicles to enable effective transportation of staff and learners with the minister warning them not to be tempted and use then in unofficial business or for personal gain.
Meanwhile, the Education Minister also received a donation of 1.3 million N-95 face masks worth 1 billion shillings from FICA Uganda. The masks according to management of FICA will be distributed to the 1.1 million learners in health training institutions.