Sources at the Ministry of Education and Sports have fiercely defended a move by the Ministry of Education to gradually reopen schools saying learners will be safer while in school than at home.
President Yoweri Museveni okayed the reopening of schools, tertiary colleges and universities for finalists starting on October 15th amid the recent spike of COVID-19 cases.
Finalists account for less than 10 percent of the total number of students, and “therefore, each group of finalists will have bigger space for social-distancing — whether they are in day schools or boarding schools,” Museveni assured the country.
A plan of further reopening schools for non-finalist learners will be decided by January 2021.
However, Members of Parliament questioned why the government was in the rush to open schools at a time when the country is registering high numbers of COVID-19 cases yet the schools had been closed before a single case was registered.
“When Covid-19 cases were few, the government closed schools. Now that they have increased, the government has decided to reopen schools. We are remaining with approximately two months to end the year; why would the government choose to reopen schools?” Soroti County MP, Kenneth Esiangu asked.
As of October 7th, 2020, Uganda has registered 8,808 positive COVID-19 cases. Out of these, 81 have died.
But Sarah Opendi, the State Minister of Mineral Development appealed to legislators to support the government’s planned re-opening of schools in a phased manner saying that there was no guarantee that they will have a vaccine for COVID-19 by early next year. According to Opendi, COVID-19 should not permanently stop operations of the country
However, when contacted for a comment, a ministry of education ministry official who preferred anonymity ssured parents that necessary measures have been put in place to ensure that learners will be safe in school.
“From the assessment, we believe students are safer in school than at home and we need them back in full time,” said the source.
“You cannot tell me that it is difficult to avail water to schools, it can be done, we cannot wait for an eternity to ensure that everyone is ready, every school has a Board of Management and it will be their responsibility to ensure that schools are safe,”
The source urged Ugandans to accept the fact that the numbers might rise but they have linked the schools with medical centers to ensure that those cases are handled immediately if there will be any. “We expect to register one or two students who will be affected but we have adequate preparation to deal with it when it occurs,” the source added.
“Although physical distancing will remain a challenge, it should not be used as a bottle neck to keep any child away from school. All teachers are encouraged to continuously provide psychological and spiritual support to learners and school support staff during the duration of the current pandemic,”