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Kabale headteachers, parents question schools reopening

Kigezi-High school

Kabale, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  As schools await the order to reopen for candidate classes later this month, school heads and parents sampled in Kabale district say they just do not have the capacity to put in place the required Standard Operating Procedures to resume operating.

More than 15 million learners were sent home following the closure of schools in March this year by President Yoweri Museveni as a preventive measure to control the spread of Coronavirus  in the country.  Learning for candidate classes is expected to resume on 20th this month.   And in a September 2, 2020 letter to the Minister for Finance, Matia Kasaija, the Education Minister Janet Museveni asked that funds in terms of capitation grants to the government schools for the third term should be released to enable schools prepare for the new term.

However, stakeholders interviewed in Kabale district see any move to open schools in the current circumstances as dangerous there are simply no resources to implement the basic SOPs.

Remigio Byamukama, the Head teacher of St Mary’s College Rushoroza in Kabale municipality said that it would simply be disastrous to open schools before a COVID 19 vaccine is developed.

David Byamugisha, head teacher at Kigezi High School says that taking the pupil’s records daily as one of the standard operating procedure for schools requires extra man power as it is time consuming and may thus be an unimplementable burden to the schools. He also added that implementing social distancing may be impossible among the pupils since most of them are young and may not stop physically contacting one another.

Abraham Akampurira the Head teacher of Kigezi High school said that however much his school is well prepared for the reopening of only candidate classes, it is advisable for the government to first consult other stakeholders in the education department like parents before it resolves to reopen schools. Akampurira said it shall make no impact if schools were reopened and parents did not send their children back to schools due to either lack of necessary learning materials, school fees or the fear to expose their children to the risks of the virus from other learners and the school communities.

However, Barnard Bikorwomuhangi, the Head teacher Kabale Brainstorm High School also in Kabale municipality said that when the Ministry of Education released the standard operating procedures to schools in preparation for the opening of candidate classes, the school started preparing and is now ready waiting for the government’s decision on opening of candidate classes.

Simon Mugabe and Anna Maria Kyokusiima, parents in Kabale municipality said that they cannot send their children to schools even if the government reopened schools. They claimed that the said standard operating procedures cannot be matched by most of the schools in Uganda due to limited resources and therefore there is a likelihood of the virus spreading easily among learners in case of any positive case, especially due to failure to implement protective measures like social distancing.

The Ministry of Education and Sports’ Directorate of Education Standards released a set of Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards for schools in preparation to the reopening.  The guidelines included availability of staff health, sanitation and environment committee to oversee or constitute Covid 19 Task Force;  compilation  of daily health reports on learners; support supervision conducted by school management on compliance to health standards especially SOPs among others.

Another important requirement is the  availability of an isolation room.

School must also, provide masks to school community. Disinfection of classroom floors, walls, furniture, surfaces and toilets must also be done all the time. THere should also be a program for a shift system for class, library, workshops, laboratories and meals. And needless to say, hand washing facilities are a must.

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