Members of Parliament have expressed dissatisfaction at government’s ill-preparedness in regard to the phased re-opening of schools.
President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday, 20 September 2020 during a televised address to the nation, announced that schools would open on October 15, 2020.
The Members were responding to a statement by the State Minister for Higher Education, Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo on government’s level of readiness to re-open schools, starting with finalists, during plenary on Tuesday, 23 September 2020.
MPs said there are numerous gaps within the education and health sectors which if unattended to, will risk the lives of learners and the quality of education.
For instance, government has issued a requirement for schools to procure temperature guns and have a dedicated health worker to screen learners and teachers for Covid-19, which MPs said is not tenable for government schools because they have not been provided with funds.
“During the lockdown, government schools were told to refund capitation grants since they were not operational but government has not refunded the money. How do you expect, for example, schools to buy temperature guns and other minimum requirements?” asked Hon. Joseph Ssewungu (DP, Kalungu County West).
Legislators are concerned that the yardstick for assessing learners during the forthcoming national examinations will be unfair to those from rural areas who did not access learning materials because they lacked electricity, radios and internet.
“If you go to Kampala schools such as Kabojja Junior, teachers have been teaching online yet there are many rural schools where learners did not receive learning materials. So how will you assess these learners using the same yard stick?” Ssewungu questioned.
Members said that government should have carried out an assessment of home schooling and ascertain if learners were prepared for the national examinations.
“In one district, learning materials were delivered at a sub-county which did not have electricity and a printing machine. Government must carry out an assessment of how learning materials were distributed and how effective they were,” added Hon. Mathias Mpuuga (DP, Masaka Municipality).
MPs also think that re-opening schools at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is on the rise countrywide is an unwise decision, worsened by the uncertain plan on the safety of learners and teachers.
“We know that Uganda has entered another phase of Covid-19 where community transmission is on the rise and it is no longer easy to trace contacts. So, if government is proposing that students should go back to school, are we not risking lives of our children?” asked Hon. Kenneth Lubogo (NRM, Bulamogi County).
The financial implication of the Covid-19 pandemic on proprietors of private schools and parents, MPs said, must be of great concern to government as some parents who have been out of business since March may not afford the school fees.
“What is the fate of parents who had already paid school fees? How will schools take care of the funding gaps? Which budget will they use?” asked Mpuuga, adding that, “if government does not address this, then there will be a conflict between teachers and schools.”
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who chaired the plenary, said it was wrong for government to re-open schools without thorough consultation with key stakeholders.
“Government failed on masks. It also failed on e-learning. Now you are forcing re-opening without consulting the key stake holders involved,” said Kadaga.
The Speaker deferred the debate to Tuesday, 29 September 2020 and directed the education ministry to address the MP’s concerns and present the country with a sound plan.