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OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUSEVENI: Decision not to reopen schools may do more harm than good

Students are all home now, and schools are reaching them through the internet and TV

Advocates of a dead year for schools are similar to the advocates of a continuous lockdown of the economy to defeat COVID-19

OPEN LETTER |  Ass. Prof Mesharch Katusiimeh Rwebiita |  Your Excellency, as government is mulling over the fate of education institutions in this COVID-19 new normal, a group is exerting pressure and petitioning you against the move to consider gradual reopening of schools. In fact while officiating Heroes’ Day celebrations you talked of receiving pleas from parents requesting you not to open schools until the threat of Coronavirus is out, some advising you to declare a dead year. 

Advocates of a dead year for schools are similar to the advocates of a continuous lockdown of the economy to defeat COVID-19. They seem not to think of trying other measures since no one is sure we will get a vaccine. Mr. President, I am not an expert and so I cannot claim to know what kind of decisions are realistically possible or appropriate. I can only offer suggestions based on what I read and observe.   

Your Excellency, I have fairly followed the arguments for those against opening of schools. Their main argument is that the school environment is well suited to spread disease since students are often packed in small classrooms and for boarding schools in dormitories. Physical distancing guidelines are therefore impossible to implement and won’t work for the youngest children. In turn these children will spread it to the rest of the community.   

Mr President, in your address to the nation on matters regarding COVID-19 on 18th May, 2020, you directed that schools can be opened but only for finalists. The MOES started planning how the learners can go to school but it seems they hit a dead end with stakeholders making it hard and coming up with what I may call outlandish and even outrageous demands as pre-conditions to reopening schools. This and the unfortunate increase in community infections for COVID-19 could have informed your decision to extend opening of schools by a month.   At the moment the MOES seem not to be making further steps to come up with guidelines for reopening schools. Some analysts have poured cold water on your parental directive that finalists should return to school so they are not interrupted in this critical stage of their educational career. 

Some people are saying that if schools are to open let all classes be considered instead of gradual opening in a staggering form and probably shifts. They forget COVID-19 demands sacrifices and in any case while other students may read on their own and be promoted to the next class, it is impossible for finalists because they will need to sit for a national exam to acquire a national certificate before they move to the next academic level.   

Your Excellency, I have cared to find out those who are making the loudest noise against gradual re-opening of schools. Yes, they may be genuinely concerned about the safety of children but they are not proposing practical measures on how to handle teaching and learning in case a vaccine is not developed. We all know that online teaching and learning benefits a few in Uganda. This group advocating for schools being closed indefinitely comprises of urban elites with formal employment including those employed by government in public primary and secondary schools. They are earning a salary and have facilities at home. Their children are enjoying virtual platforms as they continue homeschooling. 

Others are teaching their own children at home or hiring private teachers to teach children in their comfort of their homes. A good number of schools in Kampala and other urban areas have continued teaching online and those with TVs are learning. Even if schools close for a year or two, the children of these parents are unlikely to repeat classes. They will progress to the next class. Mr. President these could be the category of parents who call you not to re-open schools. They are the ones threatening not to send their children to schools until the government declares zero COVID-19 cases or till a vaccine is available. 

This group has nothing to lose with schools staying closed. I can be classified in this group. Over the last 3 months, I have been in charge of my children’s education. I have even been thinking of opting‐out of formal schooling altogether because I have been inspired by the learning and growth of my children in all aspects during this time at home. This COVID-19 crisis, while terrible overall, has revealed to me that children can be educated without being formally being in our normal and expensive schools.   

Mr. President, those who are like me in a privileged position to do home schooling or follow virtual classes or benefit from TV lessons and newspaper pull outs are very few probably less than 5% of parents in Uganda. We must think about other parents and children who are not schooling at all the moment schools closed. You are in a very privileged position and we are lucky to have a president who appreciates scientific information and makes use of intelligence information to make decisions for the common good. I am sure you are already doing more consultations and you will make the best decision to help a common man deep in villages with no access to internet, TVs and even radio.

 

48 comments

  1. Am Kennedy Mateba,a primary school teacher working with Nakapiripirit DLG.Yes, professor,am deeply in support of the the brilliant ideas you suggested to the president dated 16th June this very year .As I speak now, a good number of my candidates have been married off,yet due to prolonged stay at home. I wish to humbly beg President Museveni to critically analyse key facts you have outlined . matebakennedy2@gmail.com

  2. Professor, you are entitled to your opinion yes. But rather than opting for a populist approach, I would like to invite you and your think alikes to look at what is in other schools of though is called OPPORTUNITY COST.

    What would we rather have?: a cohort of students that missed an academic year but resumed studies when all was clear, or a cohort of students that nearly got decimated by the COVID-19 epidemic? Of the two scenarios, material that was to be studied in the missed academic year can be recovered, and be studied. Students will miss a year, it is an inconvenience, yes, but it is much safer. Lives lost to COVID-19, God forbid if schools were to be hurriedly opened, and the epidemic was to strike.

    In fact, another school of thought professor, I recall pretty well that during the UNLA/UNLF battle that uprooted the government of Amin, myself and colleagues lost almost an entire year of O-level. We did not study S4. We ran away from school because of the war in November of Senior 3, and reported back to school the following year in September when we had to do final exams (S4) around November/December of the same year. There was no reading material at all, the school had been burnt to ashes, and looted clean. But we did exams and passed and joined A-level.

    In advancing the argument of opening the schools, a careful look at the opportunity cost of opening now, and holding on till all is clear, should be carefully thought about. I don’t think those advocating against opening now, have any other reason, or benefit, apart from the fear of what may happen to the children in this period of COVID-19 pandemic uncertainty.

    • but don’t u think the repercussion of children staying at home all this long is much greater than the repercussion Covid may bring to students at school and mind u standard operating procedures will be followed while students are back at school…and if I may ask you…how many people out there in villages do u think they can manage assisting their children study at home and how many homes have received the so called self study materials? And mind u this is not Amin’s regime where by then children weren’t so prone to sexual related activities like how it is now…unless u want to see most of the young children being made mothers at such a younger age and what if the vaccine is not got and the virus continues striking all through?? shall we have schools closed forever? please don’t think only in your margins but even for other poor mothers out there who may not even afford a book when school has opened…

  3. Good evening professor, your concerns are very right considering the inequalities we are seeing as it pertains to access to educational services and materials by the different learners in the different parts of the country.
    taking into consideration that schools were closed when we had no COVID19 cases in the country and now we are trying to see that students get back to school at a time when community cases have begun coming up.
    In your writing, you have focused on age as the only risk factor for transmission and not put into consideration the factors for the outcome of COVID19. IMMUNOSPRESSION, RESPIRATORY CONDITIONS such COPD, ASTHMA among others. Not all learners are teenagers, university students( undergraduates, post-graduates and PHD students), this means the education system has all the age groups. Education system is the community itself.
    opening of schools now requires restructuring the system, most universities were supposed to start the next academic year in August,2020 however, last year’s academic year is still behind by two months and this has to be covered before a new one. universities and tertiary institutions finalists are not of great worry because the lost times can be covered at any point once the schools, our greatest worries are about the candidates in primary and secondary schools whose lost times can not be recovered easily.
    social distancing in most of the school settings is impossible. mixed day and boarding schools, i don’t know how this can be well managed, maybe you have a way forward.
    opening of schools is like saying, lets go back to normal routines and just observe the guidelines and make the disease part of us.
    its not the decision of the president to say that schools should be opened, it is the willingness of the public to allow their children go back to school, being ready to bear the consequences of opening up schools. the health must have proven that there is safety for the children and they have the capacity to handle any outcomes of opening schools.

  4. Proffessor thanks but consider the school fees going to be paid by parents whose businesses are still closed eg barbers those working in arcades but remember for those I. candidate classes they require both uneb registration fee and school fees and above all we can’t risk lives the president himself keeps saying it

  5. thanks Mr. professor, you are right with the suggestion it is absolutely right and true that other people have access to the learning on tv and radio stations but other can’t afford

  6. Mr professor, you are right but these Ugandans against your request might have misunderstood your suggestion

  7. Government is at risk at all sides. Reopening schools means creating an alarming number of new COVID19 cases per medical worker in as short a time as possible. On the other hand keeping schools closed would appear like Uganda is in to lead of looking for COVID19 lasting solution such as a search for vaccine.
    But in reality it’s like in this lockdown we as a country are only waiting for the discoveries of other business oriented countries to last as a solution. A state of emergency needs to be declared, if waiting without prosecution is to continue. Unfortunately political selfish interests of our leaders cannot allow that.
    Continue scratching your heads but don’t touch our political plates, until you lose most of your hair is gone. Just have more hope.

  8. Proffesor you are right.
    As we aware of how the pandemic is transmitted keeping in perspective on how our community shall be congested in classes means some parents will not be in position to send their
    loved ones to school. The reason will be ” Schools and time will not be affected and killed by COVID BUT my dearest shall be, so rather keep the fragile ones hind of me such that I keep watch until the front line clears”.
    This means in reality that, we are the one in charge of schools and time but the live of human being is being governed by the owner.

  9. Nagaba Innocent

    Thanks Mr.proffesor for your good ideas me am asking myself are Ugandans really waiting a total zero cases to be announced and then they reopen schools? Never this covid 19 won’t be washed out completely.I beg His Excellency to take another step and reopen schools,me myself am a senior six(s.6)student but what we are facing in villages really it is unbelievable because some students got married others have become alcohol victims, others have been killed due to thefty cases and others have escaped from their homes.we need a quick help we Ugandans.

  10. As parents we all concerned about the education of our children. But proponents of reopening of schools at this time when COVID cases are increasing in the community are not being realistic. Most schools (both day and boarding) are overcrowded because their proprietors need to make money and I think that it is some of them that are pushing for schools to open because of business reasons. But at whose expense do we want to uphold a system? I would rather have a living and healthy child who will be able to catch up later than have one who is unhealthy and unable to perform all in the name of upholding a system. Please, let’s not sacrifice our children. It is only the living and healthy that can obtain knowledge, the dead don’t study at all.

    • Hi Miriam greetings to you hope you are fine I really support your decision . I real life health mind and body works better than the unhealthy body so it’s not real easy to sacrifice our children it’s not there fault but I want to say let us the parents should not loose hope on the future education of our children .we should be close to our children guide them and keep updating them on how real the covid 19 is and how to deal with it . the children will be back to school but this is not the time yet .let Corona virus end and they will resume from there

  11. Thanks professor for the genuine ideas as given in the letter,am a private teacher who has not received any salary since 18th march 2020 but as our beloved president comfort s is always by the mercy of God am still surviving .my opinions support professor’s in away that by the help of the government, we should be looking forward to setting strategies on how to live with covid but not living with zero covid cases. For sure reopening of school would save more children who are being challenged by adolescence in village,children who are turning into delinquents deep there in communities and many others who are lacking care and guidance in their homes due very busy or else negligent parents .May the president really look into the ideas and take a favourable reaction to save the young generation.

  12. Mbaziira daniel

    Your suggestions opt for opening of schools without offering practical solutions to the pandemic, u seem to suggest opening up to solve inequalities in the country as if to say the virus is discriminative. I would rather you concentrate on helping the president on how to mitigate the spread of the virus even when students report back to school..
    If it was declared a dead year how then will the rich parents kids be promoted to the next class without supporting document from the previous year?

  13. Thanks for all those who have had time to post their views but in real sense covid is here to stay and so as a country we need quick solutions because tomorrow we shall need more scientists who would have been washed away by marrying and being killed due to failure to reopen schools as parents we are all putting a stumbling block on reopening schools but let’s ask ourselves are we able to control our children from sexual abuse from villages and secondly are we able to handle domestic violence out of our children’s minds because if as parents too we are seeing friends and relatives continuing to engage in losing lives as a result of domestic violence but all cases are infront of our children
    Please let’s take a leaf on how the gov’t is handling the issue of prison inmates and we advocate reopening of schools
    I only advocate for schools to reopen soon and on a SHIFT basis like classes to be divided into two categories and some children attend in the morning and others in the afternoon like if a school has boarders that take morning sessions and the day scholars use the afternoon session
    I would also advocate for the gov’t to have also asked schools to send nurses and two trs to be trained how to attend to covid cases and some other related restrictions

    • Thank you very much professor for your brilliant advise now those who are saying Covid will kill our children, its a child sacrifice etc for me I think they are not considerate.Uganda for long time has been battling with the problem of early marriages, teenage pregnancies and now general immorality of children like drug abuse and so on and villages are badly affected.now if we have been having these when children at schools now that they are not at schools I beg as you bring suggestions don’t look at your home only as professor is saying let’s consider others. Yes Covid is real, early marriages in the villages are real, teenage pregnancies are real and drug abuse as you wait for Covid I think you will eliminate a big number of young people from school I suggest gradual opening of schools.

  14. It is true that some students are learning using Internet, TV and radios but that is a a very small % compared to all students we have in Uganda, therefore I think that small % won’t be promoted to other classes since the bigger % is not studying as of now, those who are claiming that some have opted to getting married and other becoming drug abusers it is true, but still those groups are still minor % according to students and pupils we have in Uganda, A bigger group is still waiting patiently, I myself am a Parent but strongly suggest that reopening of schools is very risky to our dear children, let this be marked as a dead year as we wait for God’s mercy, since we are now in front of RED SEA praying and waiting for God to direct Moses to raise up his stick and order the RED SEA to separate into 2 pieces then we move on to the other side safely other than hurrying to cross and we all die. Kindly let us be patient, God knows we are worried and He will soon give His directive to Moses. God Bless you.

  15. Learn to think wider Mr professor..use better logical allegations…

  16. Professor u have a healthy body but ill brain

  17. Reagan Akampurira

    Thanks to everyone for ur comments and ideologies
    But now according to me whether reopening or not? We also need to have a consideration of wat the Lord says.
    He says without faith no man can please God.
    PSALM 33:18-19
    18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
    On those who hope in His mercy,
    19 To deliver their soul from death,
    And to keep them alive in famine.

    Let’s give it a little more wait as we hope in the mercy of God to wash away this pestilence of covid 19. For the eye of The Lord is on us all and our country.
    Before any decision please let’s first seek God’s Grace and mercy because He is the only one who knows wat is ahead of us , we may rush to reopen schools wen more and worse situation is coming or even wen al this situation is going to be washed away completely.
    Stay blessed.

  18. UGANDA UGANDA UGANDA wat it covid doesn’t end meaning schools will be closed forever
    how many have gotten pregnant in this lock down, my President wake up what these guys have eaten is enough gradual opening of schools should start off, Now even the ministry of education is silent about this
    i think you guys should just take us to another country mwe musigale in your uganda mujoga

  19. Let’s think like guys with brains and foresee. I don’t know whether any person has ever go a dream that by January next year covid will be over.if you are saying classes are too small to handle the students, what are we doing including so called government schools.now instead of opening minds as leaders to fight the pandemic,get possible ways of opening schools amidst the virus now you are pretending to relly on fragmented online studies.by now a president who has pulled for two and more terms should be knowing economic status of his people.a majority use candles and now you are thinking of TV,no frequency channels reaching such areas.if the pandemic is real why not first fight it and forget elections.covid is lasting three years in Uganda let’s study online,asses online and we see progress

  20. professor you are right,we are not the same,some of us feel like they are the only human being we have in this country

  21. Thanks prof the Ugandans who can’t think beyond their nose are the ones opposing your ideas because some of them are so selfish since some earning their salary and they are very lazy they keep on bringing impossible ideas so that they eat free money after all they earn but should the govt stop their salaries u will see them saying let schools reopen they fond care about others sincerely speaking corona is here to stay therefore Mr president you should reopen and ensure strict following of sops

  22. Thank you so much for this piece of advice.
    We have a few or non of the parents categorized under low class that can access or have the President’s contacts and can call him direct.

    I pray that this information reaches our President because he cares about us all.

    indeed our children are getting spoiled from home because we are not there to take charge.

  23. Agatha Kabaisera

    You are also entitled to your opinion.
    I support professor’s suggestion.

  24. u guys think your children are safe at school but to my realisation it all begins at home; the way u nurture them at home determines their disposition at school; better use this time to observe their behavioural change at home! Teachers will then have where to start

  25. Sourly being a professor doesn’t mean that U can decide for even private teachers. Let the government pay the teachers in private schools

  26. It’s painful to commend here because several times it is said more children study in private schools where more teachers are employed in the private schools and more so since the lockdown was enforced they have never got salary for their needs in general and their hope is schools should open for them to earn a living despite all these difficulties government has totally and permanently refused to give a hand when they a lot in the economy by producing children for the nation and paying heavy taxes among others. Let all these be assessed properly

    • Children in private schools (and they from the bulk of dignitaries kids) will go back to face heavily and I mean heavily stressed teachers-
      Teachers in private schools are some of the worst victims of this covid lockdown

  27. Mutabazi evaristo

    Thanks very much Mr proffessor for the parental concern on the future of 95% ugandas mostly in the education department (learners). personally am affected, considering the current lifestyle not only in villages but also in town areas mostly in market centres, people are completely close to each other than even schools because maintaining 4 metres is sincerely uneasy to full fill thus I wish the president could favor us who can’t get the chance of communicating up to his platform! It’s very unfortunate that the government has not said anything like asupport to the sector of education ( private teachers in general) ,this section really needs ahand from government since teachers are all locked down!
    Personally am thankful for the effort done by his excellence en his team for the effectiveness en efficiency of ugandans but I request that the ministry if possible should draw the directive that can favour institutions of learning for their continuity!

  28. One major worry I have for this confined school closures is the mental fatigue it has began to cause to these multitudes of children-they will need considerable counselling as a good deal of them are currently primary victims of the economic stress many of their parents are facing right now.
    Think about as well the multitudes of teachers especially in private schools who are facing tremendous hardship as many of them are being evicted from their rented houses and were subject to unpaid leave! Our children will go back to be welcomed by heavily stressed teachers-

  29. Shadiah Namwanga

    In my community closure of schools has not made it any safer for the children because since the parents can not go to work anymore they have resorted to child labor and now more than ever children are moving door to door selling different stuff like tomatoes so they can bring food the table ,,,are they then safe out of school!!? Let’s reopen schools and find means of being safe even with the disease among us ,,,thank you professor

  30. What am askg wat if covid z to be dea til next yr so students shd continue stayg hm

  31. Nabatende Catherine

    Thanks professor for those brilliant idea.Hey you people covid is like HIV, it will never go back am telling you this.Yes the lives of our children matter but also their future is vital.My question is what if we call for a dead year and then things become worse than before ? Community cases won’t reduce even for a moment because people move the disease day and time. Let’s find other guidelines that can help our children when they at school rather than waiting for the disappearance of covid 19

  32. Amutuhaire Saul

    Yes it’s of more harm than good leaving sch. closed.
    I don’t even see any reason of closing closing universities and tertiary institutions and then u open markets , private and public transport means.
    In these institutions social distancing is more observed than this, students use hostels in which the maximum number I guess it’s 4 members than it’s in public means. Most of the students reside in nearby the instructions of their learning meaning all stay in the same community unlike in public means where pple come from diff corners and meet in the same vehicle.
    Students going for lectures it’s like workers working in the same company or same office , it’s jst amatter of disinfecting the rooms every evening for the next day .
    Anyway hw will the economy stand without the young being trained to deal with it

  33. Nowamani Elivis

    Hello fellow Ugandans Mr prof is right but I don’t support his idea because hopes of Uganda having zero case about covid 19 is still very far. Maybe if covid 19 don’t end and you open schools then that will be wastage of time and resources…
    My suggestion is let institution open starting with the most affected students (candidates and finishing university students ) In so doing they will keep recording the accumulation of covid 19 in the country and they keep allowing other classes to join school. But. Covid 19 won’t end all this early. …
    Check though life is better than wealth . but ugandan life with out knowledge is equal to poverty with out life…….

  34. Thank u prof. for bieng a voice for many ugandans to president Museven. The schools should reopen because no one knows when covid 19 vaccine will be discovered. Covid 19 may take long without vaccine like HIV, why dont we (ugandans) sing our national anthem with faith and lay our future in Gods hands for protectim. The dotors haue done a good job in controlling the situation, and why does the government pin down the doctors of tommorrow by not reopening schools? Covid 19 is not in schools, covid 19 is everywhere. Upandans we need to put our faith in GOD and pray for good politics that will benefit our nation. The Lord who protects our children at home will protect them at schonl because wherever GOD Leads He protects, He provides, He cares for us, and He is very close to us than the bits of our hearts.

  35. I do thank you mr proffessor for the complete professionalism en heart for the learners continuity, I do think that it’s bse of the outside learners that the government en the parent’s body are worried of since ugandans are at least safe currently, I wish the ministry of health could help en plan to first receive all the learners from outside for check up as they stay in there respective centers of learning , then after the Nationals also be allowed to join after observing thorough quarantine of the feared community! This is how I would suggest as one of the affected community in the education sector.I can’t fail to thank his Excellency, for the unbelievable technology used during the global pandemic!

  36. Thank u professor for ur suggestion, Really the President should look for the alternative but not waiting because we don’t when will the vaccine come.

  37. Mr deadbastard

    we have all seen how that the president is opening for only those raising their voices higher,…i think its our time as students(universities) to raise our voices in all ways possible, august is soon now! how much re we supposed to loose,…am pretty sure if all university wakes up we can make a great impact,….OUR EDUCATION MATTERS without it the so called scientist he always talks about wouldn’t exist, we waited patiently enough,… we are tired 4 months are enough ,…

  38. Thanks all for your views BUT just think
    of how many have lost lives in relation to
    COVID-19 pandemic. I may not give my heartily decision b’se
    I posses zero post in
    the MOES. Let they
    rule us as they want,
    nothing to do. They may either be right or
    wrong on the continuous “close-up” of schools.

  39. Ismail Bashaija

    I purely concur with the Professor on account of the following:

    The Pandemic has come to stay, therefore we have to devise means of living with it while implementing Standard Operating Procedures.

    It is not all about earning in these schools but the effects that Prolonged stay in the Village has had on majority Ugandans who do not have a GATE at home. These are the majority and their children especially girls have been married off. The net effect shall be Producing children with no care who will not get education in future and also produce another third generation without care.

    I am certainly sure that those advocating for no opening of schools are the teachers who are paid by the government and some parents are seeing it of the Economic Side. YES there is no money now to cater for school fees of the children and we all agree BUT this should not stop the government from sending children to school.

    ONLINE learning: This is not embraced by the majority of the teachers because of their own reasons (A). They do not afford computers or even smart phones (B). They have computer Phobia (C). There is no money for the DATA as even the Service providers are becoming expensive. The parents themselves do not have the money for DATA, GADGETS and TRAINING.

    I Totally agree with the professor and therefore the President should look into this off course with guidance from the Ministry of Health.

  40. GAMBAMAZIMA RUTH

    Thanks professor for your good Ideas and being a concerned citizen, Am a student at Kabale university but ever since we left campus,life has not been the same,Its only selfish employees with government jobs who do not want schools to open because they are earning monthly & even doing side businesses.
    If a daily market can operate why not a school in this COVID-19?????

    Matthew 7:12 says Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you. shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

    Mark 12:31 say Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

    The rich people and government employees want schools to remain closed because their children are learning on TVs and some even have private teachers to coach their children yet our parents here in the villages are stressed because some children have got married,others drink alcohol all day long. From my experience i have seen in this lock down More than 20% of the girls will not report back to school because many young girls are getting married during this lock down.

    How l wish Mr.President to consider your Ideas because if you were not a concerned citizen,you would be among the selfish government employees who want the schools to remain closed.

    THANKS SO MUCH PROFESSOR MAY THE ALMIGHTY GOD BLESS YOU ABUNDANTLY.

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