Rev. Fr. Ronald Okello Okidi, the National Executive Secretary for Education at Uganda Episcopal Conference has spoken about the options provided by the Ministry of Education on schools reopening on 18th January. The Daily Monitor reported on Monday about a possibility of schools being allowed to open in a phased manner with either pre-candidate classes only, or all classes report back but will be divided to study in sessions on different days.
According to Rev. Fr. Okello Ronald, the Education Secretariat at the Uganda Episcopal Conference didn’t participate/wasn’t consulted in carrying out surveys to assess the preparedness of their schools for reopening. Schools in remote areas will find it very difficult to implement the new protocols, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and wearing masks. There are approximately 6,311 Catholic Church Founded schools in Uganda and four of these are Special Needs Schools.
Whereas most of the urban schools will be able to have their pupils and students buy face masks, hand washing facilities and provide sanitisers, the rural schools face serious challenges. The cost of a thermometer gun alone valued at about four hundred thousand shillings is too much for schools in rural areas and yet this will be a requirement for the schools. Fr. Ronald estimates that about 60% of schools under their docket may not be prepared enough for reopening on the suggested date if washing facilities, sanitizers are to be provided and SOPs are to be fully enforced. It could be a recipe for disaster if there is a case of Coronavirus among the learners.
In neighbouring Kenya, schools which were closed by the government last March due to the Coronavirus pandemic were allowed to reopen on Monday. However, the challenges of enforcing measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus in schools with a high population and young children have been reported by teachers. With over ten million learners back to school, the learning institutions are facing the social distancing nightmare. Like parents in Kenya whose children reported back to school, parents in Uganda are worried about the possibility of a spike in infections as learners prepare to go back to school in about two weeks. There are valuable lessons for us to learn from the way Kenya is managing the resumption of learning as the pandemic may still be a problem for a while.