Uganda: Ministry, Private Schools Owners Discuss Reopening

Kampala — The Ministry of Education leadership on Friday met proprietors of private schools to discuss the reopening of education institutions.

Mr Hassadu Kirabira, the secretary of private schools Covid-19 committee, told Daily Monitor yesterday that although they did not achieve much from the meeting, the ministry showed willingness to hear their grievances.

He said the meeting observed that while children have not been safe at schools, the situation hasn't been any different in home during the lockdown. Mr Kirabira said reports of early pregnancies and incest are on the rise, which is worrying parents and other stakeholders.

The meeting at State House Entebbe was attended by Education Minister and First Lady Janet Museveni, all her deputies Dr Chrysostom Muyingo, Ms Rosemary Seninde, Denis Hamson Obua, and the ministry's technical team led by the permanent secretary, Mr Alex Kakooza. The State Minister for Finance, Mr David Bahati also attended.

According to Mr Kirabira, their committee, which represented the four associations of the private schools, was informed that an inspection would be carried out to ascertain which schools meet the guidelines for prevention of coronavirus transmission.

He said all the ministers expressed reservations on what effects Covid-19 will have on children when schools reopen. He said the ministers were also concerned about the schools' preparedness to reopen.

"The fundamental question the First Lady was posing is what we are also looking at. Her focus is looking at the risks of children being at home. Even the minister herself thought the children would be safe at home. But indicators are showing they are not. Now the question she is posing is where should the children be safely? They are not safe at school and not safe at home," Mr Kirabira said.

However, he said although schools have had challenges, there is more monitoring of learners at school than at their homes. He said once government clears them to reopen, the schools are willing to establish a conducive environment for the learners without necessarily increasing the tuition fees.

Mr Kirabira said Mr Bahati indicated that government had increased the Shs2b personal donation President Museveni had announced in his latest address on Covid-19 to Shs20b towards the private teachers' Sacco to support them during these months when they have not been earning salaries.

He also said the government announced that private schools investors don't have to worry about remitting their workers' Pay As You Earn (Paye) tax and National Social Security Fund (NSSF) contributions until September.

However, he said their appeal to government had been to at least have access to 20 per cent of their savings with NSSF which, Mr Bahati declined to comment on saying "it was still under discussion".

Mr Ismail Mulindwa, the commissioner for private schools, who also chairs the ministry's Covid-19 taskforce, confirmed the Friday meeting but declined to give details. He said they are preparing for the reopening of schools as President Museveni directed in his latest address to the nation.

According to sources who attended the meeting, Mr Kakooza said he was finalising the review of Standard Operating Procedures they received from Ministry of Health on how they should handle the situation.

pahimbisibwe@ug.nationmedia.com

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