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Parliament demands clear gov’t position on schools re-opening

Schools were closed in March to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to immediately appear before parliament and provide the government position in regard to re-opening of education institutions.

Kadaga’s directive followed complaints by a section of Members of Parliament in regard to the contradictory statements from different government institutions in regard to the proposed re-opening of schools which have left parents, proprietors of schools and other people anxious.

Education institutions were closed in March this year after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The move was meant to protect over 15 million learners in high-risk concentration centres against coronavirus and at the time of the closure, the idea was that learners could report back to school after 32 days.

It is now coming to seven months and schools are still closed. The country’s academic year normally runs from February to November covering 260 days of curricular and co-curricular activities, assessment, and national examinations. Under this arrangement, the system leaves 104 days for holidays. Around this time, the children would be reporting for the third term of school.

Bulamogi County MP Kenneth Lubogo raised a matter of national importance questioning why government had not taken a step to declare a dead academic year given the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MP also noted the unclear communication on the opening up of school from different government institutions.

Lubogo also questioned the level of preparedness by government in case there is an outbreak of Covid-19 in schools.

Mukono South MP Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga also noted that proprietors of schools were facing a lot of difficulties in regard to which direction to take given the contradictory statements from government in regard to the opening up of the sector.

Kasambya County MP Gaffa Mbwatekamwa also noted that school proprietors have incurred costs due to the confusion since a number of them had embarked on renovations and ensuring provision of more space to allow physical distancing. He said that school owners were even incurring more loans to have students resume school.

The MP further said that there are a number of issues including a bail out to teachers that government is yet to respond before schools are opened up.

Kadaga then directed that Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda to appear before parliament and give a government position on the re-opening of education institutions.

She also noted that parliament will have to hold a detailed discussion about the education sector in the presence of the Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni.

However, the Minister of State for Tourism informed parliament that Cabinet was to hold a special meeting this week in regard to the education sector and the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic after which President Museveni will address the country on the way forward.

President Yoweri Museveni had earlier on said that the big announcement on schools would be made before September but no announcement has come up yet. Meanwhile, governments around the world are slowly reopening schools as health experts say it’s vital for children to resume education having put in place standard operating procedures.

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