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Schools to open or not to open

COVID-19 Crisis exposes government weakness

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | June 22 should have seen the re-opening of schools across the country for the start of second term if a programme announced by the Minister of Education and Sports, First Lady Janet Museveni, was being followed. But schools are not opening. Instead the whole education sector is under a cloud of uncertainty with the government seemingly unable to offer direction on how to safely re-open schools after a three-month COVID-19 imposed lockdown.

The three months during which schools have been shut should have enabled the government work so fast to come up with mechanisms of ensuring that schools reopen even with the pandemic,” says Nicholas Ssewajje, an English language and literature teacher, “The indecision and uncertainty surrounding the reopening of schools has just exposed the government’s weakness which it cannot defend anymore.”

The confusion has left the fate of 15 million learners and 500,000 teachers in Uganda hanging.

President Museveni recently said some parents have petitioned him not to reopen schools saying it will be difficult to observe measures that stop the spread of coronavirus. Researchers from Makerere University’s School of Natural Sciences on June 16 also warned the government against reopening. They want a total lockdown until October.

Earlier, on June 11, MPs on the National Economy Committee of Parliament said in a meeting with members of the Uganda Vice Chancellors’ Forum that they want the government to declare the 2020 academic year “a dead year for education.”

They argued that with a whole three months of First Term lost since schools were locked down in March, it is impossible for the learners to complete the syllabus. They also knocked down a proposal by President Museveni to allow final year students in Primary Seven, Senior Four, Senior Six and tertiary institutions to complete their courses.

“Allowing candidate classes to resume and sit for examinations will clog the entire system since non-candidates will not have progressed to the next classes,” said Kassiano Wadri, the MP for Arua Municipality in northwestern Uganda.

“Forget about education this year and resume next year after adequate planning,” said Elijah Okupa, the MP for Kasilo County in eastern Uganda.

The Chairperson of the Committee, the Nakaseke North MP, Syda Bbumba, reminded everyone that schools and the hostels in which some students live are ranked as high-risk areas, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on the spread of the coronavirus disease.

“The hostels and classrooms are too crowded to apply social distancing,” said Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu. Renowned Ugandan educationist, Fagil Mandy, possibly captured best the sentiment of those against the reopening of schools.

“Dead people do not sit examinations,” he is quoted to have said recently, “You would rather stay at home and repeat the year.”

But others say stopping the academic year is unrealistic since nobody knows when the COVID-19 pandemic will end. They want the government to adopt means of living with the pandemic.

On June 15, the Minister of State for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, announced that cabinet had resolved to reopen 100 tertiary institutions and 50 universities.

“These are easier to manage without breaching Covid-19 measures relating to physical distancing requirements because they have fewer student numbers compared to Primary and Secondary schools.” He said the government has thrown out the original proposal to reopen candidate classes only because “it is not workable and would affect the entire school promotion system.”

“What happens to children in S1 who remain unpromoted having had a dead year yet those of P7 went on to sit their examinations and were ready to enroll for Senior One? The same applies to S4 and even S6,” he said, “Since that puzzle can’t be resolved, the plan to reopen candidates’ classes only is permanently off the table.”

It is significant that the minister did not say when the tertiary institutions and universities would reopen. And his statement appeared to fuel more uncertainty since the government positions appeared to be shifting with every meeting.

Just four days earlier, another cabinet meeting had resolved to keep all educational institutions shut. At that point the government said it would buy 10 million radio sets for households and 137,466 solar-enabled TV sets for the 68,000 villages to enable long-distance audio and visual learning of children at pre-university level who are locked at home.

54 comments

  1. We shall go with any decision

  2. Dr.Kayanja Francis

    To say schools shoudnt open leaves critical thinkers in a quagmire! The analysis and study by the powers to be leaves a big percentage of the problem not covered! Such issues need to be captured:
    1.What is the infection/death ratio so far.
    2.What are the new sources of infection.
    3.What is the experience after opening the places that had earlier been closed.eg,Kikuubo,Kisekka mkt, malls,owino,big mkts around the city,etc.
    4.What is the infection/recovery ratio so far.
    5.Where is the student most vulnerable?At home where most of them spend the whole day loitering in the communities or at School where they are controlled and have programme activities through out the day!
    6.Opening universities and other tertiary institutions caters for a number almost equivalent of less than the number for the P.7,S.4,and S.6 candidates!
    7.The Covid-19 Pandemic is still raging on.Keeping people locked at home or having schools closed permanently is not tenable neither sustainable! Workable measures are those which address accommodation of the problem.
    What is the plight of the very big number of teachers employed privately by both public and private institutions!
    8.Are we not creating a national crisis and educational catastrophy and tragedy when it’s wantonly decided that the 2020 academic year is a dead year! ‘No nation is better than it’s education!’
    9.It’s grossly embarrassing that after 30days if strategic close down no plausible measures have come up to rescue the sensitive education sector!
    4.

  3. Byaruhanga Benard

    It doesn’t make sense not to reopen schools and institutions because this will not solve the corona virus problem. Mind you closing schools and you leave boarders open it exposes the kind of arguments people have because there is no one who has got corona from school.
    Closing schools means that you are weakening the countries governance if not the next president or even MPs may be primary seven graduates. Does this one make sense.
    Our parliamentarians please make arguments which will improve our country in future not what you are seeing right now.
    When you lose someone, it doesn’t mean you will sleep on the grave and you will never eat. Therefore this pandemic cannot be the leading retardation factor.
    If you didn’t close schools during kony war in northern Uganda where people were dying and wasn’t ways to protect one self from being killed. Think twice. If not you have started retarding the country slowly and we are seeing .

  4. Really it was better to close schools because it has led to the spread of virus slow.

  5. Education, education, education!

    I’ve closely followed the entire arguments for or against the reopening of schools, and I must say M7’s govt is making the greatest mistake by not doing the needful (reopening schools and academic institutions) The simple logic here is; kill or render ineffectual educ institutions, and you have killed the realization of people’s dreams and aspirations.

    There is no reason whatsoever as to why schools should remain closed up to this moment; let be realistic and face it; how many persons have contracted the virus from heavily congested places like kikuubo, taxi parks etc????

    • I stand with you…..this virus is not to go in the next one year as many think….open all sectors

  6. The problem of Uganda the advisors of Mr museven don’t take people’s advice very important schools should reopen to avoid all problems of dropouts because learners are losing moral
    The issue of learning through the radios and TVs is not effective even 1% but its effective to people procuring those programs because they earn money otherwise the targeted group is not helped at least the govt would get teachers to help learners in the villages but following the sops

  7. President museveni is working for his grand doughters and sons not ugandans so I think his grand children are busy enjoying his company ,so he doesn’t want to let them go back to school, so he will miss them thts the only reason as to why schools have remained closed.bt mr president many presidents have been here before you bt tebaliiwo so we report u to our creator

  8. Please mr.museveni open the schools we are tired of staying home and we have to finish our years pliz

  9. Hi I guess Corrina Virus is not air born disease .The transmission is through contracting droplets from infected patients .This ideology of not opening school only affect poor people..Those who said that they are advisors for the President are people who are well off. with their families. They have money to hire private teachers and they have home libraries for their children. These people want to cause big exploration to the future of this Country with their selfish. Advise to the President.

    These people should hope that the Government of Uganda should change until the end of the World.They will regret later and faced big problem with their generation.Those few parents who wrote petition to the President are the same group who are well off. Even if 5 years they have money to coach their children in their homes.They thought that their children can develop this Country alone.Those are stupid and selfish people.

  10. Please the idea of calling this a dead yr is not pleasant to many students esp parents who have spent millions on their children n now they have to pay more millions for another year given the current situation wea many pipo have lost their jobs n some r single parents with not only one child but many children these of wic r mostly single mothers.And to me it would be better for finalists for all institutions to do their final exams n seat for a yr as they wait for the rest it won’t hurt anyone n it would give schools more tym to plan and have a proper come back from the lockdown.its so worrying that govt is putting all its hopes in the next yr without even being sure if things would be better then n having only candidates in skul wud only help it to see a way forward with the education system coz it would only be working with small numbers. And if that ain’t cool with them they can have candidates go back n the rest of the students go back the next yr after the elections and they would do promotion exams instead of beginning of term and if possible they could do these in January and get their reports lyk this could happen in the first two weeks then they can go back home and schools could start in February normally with all the students as it has been in the past years

  11. I don’t realize reasons as to why thus far schools are still closed
    their is no law written anywhere that staying home will make you not to contract CVR 19 not there so leaders if the nation let’s think twice on schools reopening especially for VARSITIES and tertiary institutions with overall population of less than 500000 people.
    Can’t they really be tested and monitored at their campuses.
    ITS A SYNDICATE the government is playing to make Ugandans MORE and more poor so as to easily control the poor people of the country at least not for as much as 3 months of closure.
    Many of the parliamentarians are against reopening of schools coz many didn’t go further with their studies is no SURPRISE.
    NO STRATEGIC PLAN.
    NO HOPE.
    NO ANYTHING this is SERIOUS for a country of Uganda following what SCIENTISTS who follow what real scientists say no WONDER.

  12. This government is not serious enough to close the entire education system.if closing of schools controls covid 19 y are some of the most and still hit countries reopening schools.mind you the so called mpz discuss meaningful ideas.school should reopen or Else many won’t return to schools,due to early marriages, much relaxation hence dropout and other happenings.

  13. According to all arguments,I think where there is a way, there must be a solution, secondary,primary and other institutions, can divide school times into three shifts per day,students can go for three subjects every day, one hour one subject and another day different subjects, to maintain social distance, u can put army police in places of no use,why dont you take them in schools for security, to confirm the number of students who enter schools daily,three shifts are enough instead of sitting home doing nothing, atleast that can make a difference. And boarding section can be given security.

  14. Alice Kabajogya

    I do appreciate the work done by the ministry of health on CoVID -19, However the ministry of Education has not come up with proper procedure of monitoring the 15 million students who are out of school due to the Pandemic, the education sent materials are few and they have not reached the targeted population, the ministry said that education materials are free but as per research parents are buying materials between 5000/= to 7000/= for primary level, new vision sends materials every week, but the question is how many access the new vision, teaching some times is put on TV stations how many with TVS? Radios have tried but how many students posses a radio at home, so you find majority of the students are left out. our children with special needs are not thought of at all during this lock down. Do they have a right to education or not? the Ministry of education need to revise its standards so that its inclusive and let them use an approach of not leaving any student behind .
    Going forward
    The Education ministry need to assess the post Covid effect on learners in general
    The ministry should follow up on children with disability
    The ministry should give materials to School Heads who have data base for parents and contacts instead of trusting media which is on business

  15. Nakaayi Peninah

    I suggest the institutions and universities should open for the finalists because for they can’t be affected by the promotional things unlike the primary and secondary schools

  16. Please with the still on going analysis about the Pandemic, Please let rusume Schools next after complete precut ion,.. Life first””

    • The prob with Ugandans is wen one is welloff it doesn’t matter to those who are affected, imagine many pupils are now ready to drop out, trs are out everything. Can u imagine for over 4months now nga private trs earn nothing. Imagine dying of anything else like hunger, other disease than this virus which has not killed any yet in Uganda!!!!

  17. I keep on wondering; which kind of advisors are those. In Uganda we have like 100 infected the rest recovered as reported, go to countries like USA where they reported massive deaths and millions of sick, they spent two weeks in a massive riots, in UAE schools are open and so other countries where the pandemic has bn greater than Uganda. So not reopening schools in Uganda is more political than u can imagine. In case Mr president open schools it won’t make sense of his virtual election!!! So nowonder if schools are closed for a year. Museven has nothing to lose

  18. Everything in Uganda is possible which may be impossible in other countries, if the govt failed to distribute food only in two district! How possible will it be to give out radios and TVs to households in the whole uganda, the same money can be used to put up measures to local units to carry out screaming before opening and ensure more more measures. The govt has to keep us on tention thinking that the pandemic is worse so as they chew the funds as it has bn their daily orders!!!.

  19. Let them do whatever they wish however u reap what u so and the Bible says no seen goes unpublished

  20. Declaring this year a dead year is very much suicidal to the education system of this country.Therefore my simple advice to those concerned with taking up decisions to think closely about the impact of having a total shut down of all academic institutions for a full year without putting into consideration the effort put in by parents to have their children sent to schools.
    Imagine closing universities where students are mature and are capable of adhering to the SOPs as set up by the COVID-19 Taskforce.
    Does it mean to say that if COVID-19 stays here for the next two or three years our children will not study?
    Covid-19 is here and no one knows when it will come to an end.Therefore lets government consider re-opening of educational institutions in a phased manner other than shut down everything.

    • Closing of schools left many teachers in private schools crying. Many will not come back in the professional.

  21. Schools need to reopen as soon as possible else by the end of the lockdown we shall have more school dropouts due to pregnancies and other factors

  22. Closing of schools left many teachers in private schools crying. Many will not come back in the professional.

  23. On behalf of many ugandans, pliz save us by opening schools ,universities and churches,, what is needed is to ask those heading these institutions to follow guidelines. when a nation dies spiritually, and educationally, its gone. Boda bodas can be allowed to carry one passanger with masks on for both and sanitisers. The current economic lockdown to churches,schools and boda boda is killing many, and those who are rich dont know this deadily killer in disguise of protecting people.The little food given, covered 0.001 percent and lasted for one week. DONT KILL US PLIZ We love our country and our leaders, but we are suffering and for them, they are okey because they are rich. When you eat well, you may not know the agony of the one who sleeps on empty stomach

  24. It is a shame that, the first lady, the minister of education is really a teacher, the president is teacher and other ministers. But because some opposition mps own schools, they have chose to lockdown schools to constrain those few mps like Kigozi Sajjalyabene a director of Aiden college in Ndejje. It’s really a shame that our government possesses stupid, selfish and low integrity ministers. Why is it that the publishing of education materials is done by vision group alone, meaning other media publish houses are incompetent, why don’t they also include some hand outs in their papers because some of us read monitor, observer and so on. This explains why ministers like Muyingo, Seninde and other mps quit teaching to join parliament because teaching profession is joke in Uganda. Imagine a country were 98.5% of students taught by teachers them selves don’t want to become teachers. And many are becoming teachers by default and they end up delivering substandard services. Imagine some parents who are hiring teachers to go and teach their children from their homes during this lockdown are the same that are the ones reported that they don’t want their kids to go back to school. I pray that God have mercy on this rotten country Uganda. For God and my country

    • I have followed the whole argument,really most Ugandans especially those who wish Uganda well in future are not happy with closure of education institutions and I add a voice in the following question perspectives;
      1.most of the on going school people have the highest level of immunity against any disease as compared to aged people who are fighting reopening of schools, have the so called Ugandan scientists considered this?
      2.they say schools will increase risk of spreading the virus because of congestion but is there any school which can be more congested than kikuubo in kla and some places already in operation?
      3.buses and taxis are back on road though at half capacity,they transport passengers across the country and crossing districts ,then how do u convince me that a bodaboda who operates with in a village or sub county to a large extent bears more risks of spreading the virus than vehicles which cross districts and move allover the country?
      4.in case a bus passenger is positive for covid 19, is it easier to trace for their contacts than a pupil or student who tests positive for virus in school or university ?
      5.according to WHO report, covid 19 pandemic will stay for quite a longer period ,if u declare an academic dead year for now ,how many dead years will u declare in case the pandemic does not end?
      Conclusion; Ugandans who advise the president on measures to be taken on controlling this pandemic do not love Uganda but want money at the expense of Uganda and so they will die because of money as the president one day stated. Am appealing to all Ugandans who advise the president to have Uganda at heart, our mother nation, most Ugandans have died due to starvation, domestic violences , being shot by military officers all caused by covid 19 much as you are boosting that we have not yet lost any one as a country. Your pieces of advise make our president one who lacks a sense of judgment,
      My input;the ministry of health in patternship with the government should devise means of all systems operating with the pandemic because by statistics, it is not ending today or sooner.
      Encourage people to eat well balanced meals to boost their body immunity to fight the virus.
      For God and my country.

  25. Government has to open schools as soon as possible coz me I see its even not helpful to close though The president said parents call him. But to me parents who call the president can afford everything for their children to study
    The I ask myself what about some who are in homes without radios and tvz?
    U can again find a no ov children on the boreholes fetching water
    So my point is schools should be reopened

  26. Honestly, schools need to be opened. Because next year, there are elections and it willl also kill alot of school time.
    But we need to keep in mind; Uganda is not China, we do not have the ability to study online for all students countrywide. We also dont have the equipment to efficiently check and monitor student and staff movement. Basically if we are to open schools, it should not be because China or UAE or some other tycoon country is able to do it despite their large number of cases, it should with realistic measures in comfort with both the finances of the government and its people. I do not know if corona virus can spread faster at home or at school, all i know is that people of any age are very careless and its very easy for the students who are always close to each other in school or at home to be careless. Education is indeed important, but i just hope we make the right decision.

  27. Pliz mr.museveni allow de schools to open because in de villages some children are not having access to online studies and some parents are overworking their children

  28. The government should open the schools this because “if uper what down by accident u will not collect but go back and get another one” meaning not all the 5 million students will hv Covid so please “mukiberemu”.

  29. Savio Mubangizi

    Well we all must first thank God the almighty that we all can still breath at this very juncture. Who knew that we would be kicking at such an era?

    But ladies and gentlemen here we need to ask ourselves these health and economic related questions.
    Firstly obe would ask how much dora the education sector contribute to our economy apart from coperation taxes from private schools as well as PAYEE from teachers across the country. May be we can also talk of indirect support through the purchase of various schools esentials. This I think contributes some good percentage to the GDP.

    Secondly we need to ask ourselves how many students are to graduate this year or even early next year and then compare it the number of jobs available in the labour Marley. We need to note that even ir we are to spend an extra ten years without producing new graduates, Uganda cannever provide employment for the already un employed skilled and semi skilled labour in this I dont’ know if we would ever lack labourers.

    From this perspective then we need to ask ourselves why we must impose ourselves to danger yet we can forego the sector even less than a financial year how many jobs are available for our risking students.
    We all understand that some of the students that graduate fry to the foreign world to look for survival but mind you the air transport is affected and besides that most economies are to restrucrure a fresh for economic development. Statistics say that due to the pandemic approximately 2 billion people are likely to lose their jobs.

    Again it is very hard to control students that if the pandemic was to attack a few would be left un affected surprisingly even the non schooling population

    Fellow Ugandans according to my opinion I think the reopening is schools amid this current situation is estremely dangerous.

    Note that you cannever insert your finger in a strange dog’s mouth so that you may test if it bites. This we can not test if COVID-19 can affect the schooling population given our economic status. We hard learnt the experience of the countries like USA and Italy we can’t accept to taste the same turmoil.

    Nevertheless the continued closure of schools Will lead to increased school drope outs leading to increased illitracy, increased early pregnancies hence rapid population growth hence too much pressure on the limited resources culminting into low economic growth rate
    Special thanks to the President of the Republic of Uganda Gen YK Museveni and the ruling government irresoective of all that has beene said in the public. You have done your part and you continued to play your number in the game.
    God bless you.
    For God and my country

    • Some facts that the government should never hide from Ugandans. People may be kept ignorant but not all and not at once; Corona is not the only source of death. Since the pandemic reached our country, how many people have died of some other causes? Why didn’t we lockdown schools because of malaria, typhoid fever etc? It shouldn’t be political because most of the school going people are not even interested in who is going to be who after the elections. Just like the president cited that blocking truck drivers from entering Uganda is suicidal, he better sees and considers this fact with great intellect; closing schools the whole year is much more suicidal. Who knows the cost of ignorance? Just like people said, most people are getting frustrated because all the people handling the pandemic have huge pockets, they don’t understand how our poor mothers in villages survive. How much money will purchasing radios and tvs cost? Why not channel that money to enforce safety guidelines in schools? So after the pandemic, who will own the tvs and the radios? Who even advised that such form of teaching ever makes a student better. Who is going to teach mathematics and practical sciences on radios? The best country is one where the leaders care about the future of the next generation, not their pockets. Open the education system, death will never end. Our economy will also be at a free fall and soon the shilling may be used for toilet paper.

  30. If this blog is read by anyone who cares and loves Uganda and is responsible for final decision making, please please and please, open the schools.

  31. Olanya Isaac Ronald

    The closure of Schools in Uganda is political, its no longer COVID-19.

  32. see how these few people are ruining our education sector, killing our future, and wasting our time, they don’t have any practical ideas because if you are fearing Corona to open the education system, it means you have all the information on when the virus will disappear, try to think practically please

  33. we’re tired of this senseless and low thinkers
    do they know when the virus will disappear!?? mxcczzsss

  34. Schools Shouldnt Open Because Of Failure To Maintain Social Distancing

  35. There is actually no reason for keeping schools closed. Ministry of education should not sit back and relax as if it is all well for them. The minister and technical staff should come up with a clear programme that can be used as a basis for planning to reopen schools. They should move around districts and engage all stakeholders in this. They should copy the example of the minister of trade and industry who is working to help arcades reopen.

  36. Lucky are they that they are preparing their children’s future already. But an example a parent got loans for his/ her finalist child thinking that this yr he/she shud be done and work to pay for the loans and now this coinsidance

  37. Greeting to mr president my suggestion is since we dot know wen covid will last let us kol 2020 a dead year 4 the schoolars bt let the gov’t get asolution 4 schoolars who live deep in villages becoz we are alikely to face school drop out in 2021 let the ministry concerned be care full because many gals a going to produce in this covid Let them go back lyk in september to recal to be ready to start 2021 ya they will pay less feez until the official open up in 2021 try to think of that

  38. Ekongot Israel Isaac

    MR Museveni and his cabinet decides not to open schools this year, what if the pandemic worsens next year??..

  39. Yaa am also arguing the kind of a dead year coz the dead people can’t raise and sit for exams pliz give it time think twice ,collect different measures and start afresh next year thx

  40. Dominic Kparivuru

    I don’n think the reason why the government have refused to open the schools is because of COVID-19. there is a hidden agenda behind that

  41. Education was been known in Uganda to be some thing compulsory to all, but seems the government wants to make it optional. I don’t agree with the proposed strategy of e learning, radios TV etc. Do every households in the community in position to access those. If you the government trying to propose the issues of shopping radios to different house hold ” DO YOU MIND OF THE SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN” they also have right to education . How are you going to help them? The deaf and the blind. Open schools perfection will get people on the way.

  42. Ekongot Israel Isaac

    Schools should be opened because distributing radios and television won’t work for all needful students, Ugandans is the best in terms of collecting taxes and yet it’s also one the leading country with high level of poverty and this calls in questions that where are the taxes paid by citizens go??. Because if the government promised masks and food but failed to fulfill now expensive radios and television for students learning??????….. honestly it’s not gonna work let s wait and witness, unless they are targeting campaigns but as the fellow citizens we need schools to be reopened because whatever measures government has planned to put in place is just like a long term plan without any hope of success.

  43. Lawrence Kidega

    I Really thank you Isaac for the great idea.

    Government should also reopen the Churches and Mosques, the church has played a an important role in praying for the nation, which has greatly contributed to low number of CVID19 cases compared to other countries.
    God bless Ugandan.
    For God and my country.

  44. In Greece, after a 2 and half month lock of the schools from primary to the high school, the government decide to split the classes in 2 parts (half of the students on Monday-Wednesday-Friday and the other half Tuesday-Thursday and switch the program every week).
    Furthermore, the Greek government decide to increase the duration of academic year. So, all the classes completed in Greece till 2nd of July. And the next academic year will start 15 days earlier, to cover some lessons that has been losted.

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