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Museveni silence on reopening of schools creates uncertainty

As government plans to reopen schools, education experts have indicated that implementing SOPs comes at a cost, something that must be agreed upon

President Museveni’s delay to officially announce when the schools will reopen has left parents, learners and school owners in suspense.

A September 2 letter from the Minister of Education, Ms Janet Museveni, directed the Finance minister, Mr Matia Kasaija, to provide capitation grants for government schools.

She indicated that they had agreed with the President Museveni and the national Covid-19 taskforce to reopen schools on September 20, starting with the candidate classes.

However, Ministry of Education officials have declined to confirm the reopening date and instead asked the public to wait for Mr Museveni to announce the date.

“The President is the one who closed the schools. He will reopen them,” an official at the ministry said yesterday on condition of anonymity.

The private school owners under their umbrella of National Private Educational Institutions Association (NPEIA) said they hadn’t received a communication from government, which is limiting them from putting in place the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) intended to control the spread of the virus in schools.

The secretary of NPEIA, Mr Hasadu Kirabira, told Daily Monitor that they will hold consultative meetings with parents on how to meet the costs arising out of the requirements needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 within education institutions. They will, however, do so when they are sure the schools will reopen.

“You cannot request people to put everything in school before the date for reopening is announced. Increase of fees is a resolution made by the parents and school management committees and board of governors. There must be a budget for Covid-19. We have to discuss it. However, we won’t exaggerate. Schools will make programmes to meet parents and discuss issues at hand,” Mr Kirabira said.

Mr Jimmy Turyagyenda, the Association of Secondary School Head teachers of Uganda (ASSHU) secretary, said they too hadn’t received any communication from government.

He said while some of their schools might have the money to implement the SOPs, there are those which cannot start until they are sure they will reopen.

“For opening schools, we are not very sure. Some schools are cautious of the beginning since they don’t have the money. They may not comfortably implement the SOPs when they are not sure when they will reopen..,” Mr Turyagyenda, who doubles as Ntare School head, said.

While the President and health experts have previously emphasised a balanced diet to boost immunity in fighting Covid-19, Mr Kirabira said their schools may not afford these demands because of the financial implications.

“The schools cannot invest in boosting the immunity (of students) because it will make the cost of education high. Schools have a way they feed their learners, any guidance comes at a cost. We shall have meetings and agree,” he said.

Mr Kirabira added that private schools had agreed that parents who had already paid for first term forego the money to enable them start on a new term.

Schools were closed in the middle of first term on March 18, to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has become a global health threat.

However, Mr Kirabira’s submission excludes parents’ views since they were not consulted on the issue after they had paid for the incomplete term.

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