6 February 2013

Uganda: Govt Issues Checklist for School Standards

The education ministry has issued a host of minimum standards for schools countrywide, advising Parents to shun unaccredited schools and those with young matrons aged below 30 years.

According to the guidelines issued by the Directorate of Education Standards (DES), the lowest education level for matrons is Primary Seven (P7).

Also, matrons, as well as school cooks, must undergo medical examination after every six months.

DES' assistant commissioner for secondary schools Frances Atima said the routine medical examinations are aimed at guarding against the spread of infectious diseases like Tuberculosis.

The ministry also requires schools to install lightening conductors and fire detection and fighting technologies in buildings and have emergency exits on storied structures.

For security reasons, schools ought to have properly hedged or fenced compound, while those in rented premises are expected to have tenancy agreements for at least one complete cycle for their level.

This is besides other academic requirements including qualified teachers, well equipped laboratories and libraries among others.

The strict guidelines have come at the hindsight of over 50 school fire outbreaks that have burnt to death dozens of students and property worth millions of dollars in the past five years.

The most disastrous fires include one that killed 13 pupils at Kabarole Islamic Primary School in Fort Portal in 2006 and another which claimed 18 pupils of Nassolo girls' dormitory at Budo Junior School in 2009.

"We set the minimum age for matrons at 30 years because we believe at that age the matron has attained a certain degree of maturity to make independent decisions during emergencies," said Atim.

"Most of the fire incidents happened at schools where matrons were young. But at 30 years, a woman should also have a stable relationship to be able to stay indoors to take care of the students."

Primary, secondary and technical schools opened on Monday for the 2009 academic year's first term, which is to last three months.

Huzaifa Mutazindwa, the director of education standards at the ministry, implored parents to get interested in the general affairs of the schools before registering their children.

"Parents should first of all find out whether the school is registered by the ministry. If so, they should also inquire whether boarding schools have authority to operate boarding sections," Mutazindwa said.

According to the guidelines, schools must possess written permission to operate boarding facilities.

He warned that the directorate was to launch a country-wide inspection later this week to close schools with illegal boarding sections and others that do not meet the set minimum standards.

"We issued a general circular to all schools in August last year, warning them of severe consequences if they didn't put their houses in order. We do not expect any grumbles if we close them this time," he said.

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