The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Museveni has said the reopening of schools will be based on a comprehensive study by various stakeholders including health experts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
“About re-opening of schools, we must be guided in this period of Covid-19 by the President, Ministry of Health and all stakeholders,” said Janet Museveni on Saturday.
“We could not just open schools after elections as if all is okay without consultations,” she added.
The Minister spoke during the NRM Caucus sitting at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala.
Thousands of students had already arrived at several tertiary institutions ready for studies on February 1.
Universities including Makerere had given the impression that it would be open for continuing students and freshers as early as February.
However, Makerere and Kyambogo Universities later issued statements calling off orientation activities and said the institutions would be reopened on notice.
Education institutions were told to continue using online teaching tools for the next three months.
In March 2020, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni ordered the closure of schools to stop the spread of COVID-19. More than 15 million learners were sent home.
Continuing students were later called under special considerations to complete their studies.
The Ministry of Education and Sports, with support from partners like UNICEF, said it printed learning materials and distributed them to learners across the country.
UNICEF supported the printing of the second batch of learning and study materials targeting 2.5 million children in 48 districts (including 37 districts with poor learning performance and refugee-hosting districts, among others).
Don’t send kids to school
Janet asked MPs to support and explain to the public the government’s position on re-opening of schools and higher institutions of learning.
The Minister warned against sending children to school before a comprehensive analysis and recommendation of the way forward by experts.
“On Monday, cabinet will discuss the issue of re-opening schools and will let you know after that. What we must all remember is that we should not look at education as a business enterprise,” said Janet Museveni.
It appears government intends to reopen schools after receiving vaccines for essential workers by April 2021.
Other countries including UK have kept schools closed to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and the new variant first discovered in South Africa.
Spread of covid-19 in children
Experts say now is the time to chart a vision for how education can emerge stronger from this global crisis than ever before and propose a path for capitalizing on education’s newfound support in virtually every community across the globe.
According to a survey by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the rural-urban gap in participation in any education or learning activities widened.
The share of households with at least one child participating in any education or learning activities declined slightly in rural areas (56 versus 54%) and increased in urban areas (67 versus 73%) during the covid-19 pandemic.
The most frequent reasons for children not participating in any education or learning activities were lack of learning materials, low student interest, no access to radio/tv and increased household chores.
According to World Health Organisation, school absence affects equity, education, child health and development.
The organisation says disruption to instructional time can affect a child’s ability to learn and that the longer marginalized children are out of school, the less likely they are to return.
Closures also disrupt school-based services such as immunization, school meals, mental health and psychosocial support, and can cause anxiety due to loss of peer interaction and disrupted routines.
Being out of school increases the risk of teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, child marriage, violence and other threats.
WHO says children of all ages can be infected and spread the virus to others but studies to date show less spread among children under ten years than in older children.
Infection occurs more often in teenagers than in younger children while older children appear to be more susceptible to infection and to transmit more often than younger children.