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Re-opening for non-candidates: Schools skeptical on enforcing SOPs

S.5 Students from Kisaasi College report for School

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  Heads of schools across the country are uncertain whether they will be able to enforce the Standard Operating Procedures and guidelines as they receive non-candidate learners.

Several heads teachers URN spoke to say they don’t have enough furniture to enforce the recommended social distance and teachers to attend to the learners. The updated SOPs require all schools to ensure a two-meter social distancing at all times within the school environment. In addition to this, schools have to provide several handwashing points and ensure that learners wear facial masks at all times.

Aron Balinda, Director of Studies Kisaasi College says they were unable to implement all SOPs with only candidates. With two other classes added, he says they cannot enforce them. According to him, few schools can accommodate huge numbers of learners in the boarding section with the recommended social distancing. 

The education ministry guidelines indicate that each decker should only accommodate one learner. Already, many schools have been flouting this guideline with two to three learners occupying double and triple-decker beds respectively. Balinda also says that schools might not be able to separate day and boarding learners as required by the government under the updated SOPs because it is impossible to stop learners from interacting.

John Ddumba, the DOS Emma High says some SOPs can be relaxed when the learners spend some time at the school since they would have created a bubble.  At City High School, Paul Lwanga Seruwagi says that they will be able to enforce some SOPs though it will be a tight fit. 

“We have a few hand washing facilities but we shall use what we have. We asked our learners to carry their own masks and hand sanitisers to back us up in case we don’t have enough,” he said. At Samson Memorial High School in Kyebando, they expect 150 semi candidates at both O and A ‘levels.

With only 10 classrooms that can seat 15 students at the recommended social distancing, Afuwa Nabbanja, the deputy headteacher says they do not have enough space. “The space we have is already being used by candidates. Senior fours are using three rooms while the senior six are using two classes. That leaves only five classrooms, that space is not enough to accommodate the expected number of learners returning,” Nabbanja said.

In Mukono, the situation is not any different. Headteachers of the schools that URN visited said they were struggling to get enough members of staff to teach. Teopista Nakalembe, the headteacher of Mt St Henry’s High School-Mukono, says that they have recalled the entire teaching staff including those from lower classes to assist in handling and directing students.

She notes that they have dedicated the entire first week to orient students to change the unfriendly characters they have developed during the recess period. 

However, other schools approached by URN couldn’t allow in our reporter. These include Mukono High School, St Balikuddembe, St Johns and Panorama SS. Bishop SS changed its previous program of day and boarding to only a boarding section, which has cut off several students.

Schools in Luwero have resorted to conducting lessons under trees cope with the return of learners. Wilson Nsubuga, the headteacher of Luwero SS, said the 2-meter rule for social distance is hard to meet citing inadequate classrooms and desks. He says that this has been complicated because the re-opening coincided with UCE Exams where UNEB also dictated the same rule. 

Rose Namutebi, the headteacher of New Life SS in Luwero town, says they might resort to using tents because the classrooms they have at the moment are not enough to accommodate all the learners. 

Other schools like Wampewo Ntake Secondary Schools have introduced ‘ a first-come, first serve’ mantra to try and deal with the high number of semi candidates that they are expecting. Edwards Ssekiziyivu, the deputy headteacher at Wampewo says they are expecting 500 learners and they all cannot be admitted to either the day or boarding section.

“At this time when every parent wants their child to be in the boarding section, we had to develop a new measure to serve the interests of both the parents and the school. We shall only admit students for the boarding section on a first-come basis as long as their parents can afford to pay a deposit of Shs 500, 000,” Ssekiyivu says.

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