Uganda: Hundreds of Schools Fail to Open Over Covid Guidelines

15 October 2020

Hundreds of schools across the country will remain closed today after failing to meet the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Last month, government gave the green light for schools and institutions to resume operations for finalists and candidate classes following a seven-month ban.

The Ministry of Education also set SOPs that schools had to meet before they are cleared to reopen, which include installing hand washing facilities and acquiring temperature gun.

However, some schools failed to meet some of these SOPs and will remain closed.

The affected parents have been advised to relocate their children to the neighbouring schools.

In Lango sub-region, more than 60 schools will not open after failing to meet the minimum operating standards set by the Ministry of Education.

In Kole District, 16 schools will remain closed, according to Mr Moses Okello, the district inspector of schools.

"At least 12 government primary schools and four private schools did not qualify to reopen," he said.

In Kwania District, at least 17 schools did not meet the SOPs and will remain closed.

The district education officer (DEO), Mr Andrew Omunu, told Daily Monitor that most of the schools already had 60 per cent of the requirements set by the Ministry of Education ahead of the reopening today.

In Apac , at least 48 schools out of 70 in the district were already awarded certificates of compliance as of Tuesday.

Mr Sam Atim, the area DEO, said: "We have 70 schools with candidates but some are likely not to reopen," Mr Atim said.

In Lira District, St Francis Abonyotingere, Badela Nursery and Primary School, Redeemer Vocational, and Town Side High School will not reopen.

Other schools pending reopening in the district are Amuca SDA Secondary School, Abutoadi Secondary School, Ocamonyang Technical School, DJRA Technical, Ober, Atira, Igony, Amuca SDA primary schools.

Mr Patrick Olwit Ogwang, the Lira District inspector of schools, said many school compounds have been turned into grazing grounds during lockdown while termites have invaded most of the schools. Some parents are also said to be resisting the return of their children to school.

However, he encouraged teaching staff to return to schools that have been cleared to reopen and to prepare to receive the learners.

In Oyam District, Mr Fred Aremo, the district information officer, said 95 per cent of government primary schools in the district have met the minimum operating standards and are set to reopen for finalists.

The LC5 chairman of Alebtong District, Mr Johnson Okello, has threatened to arrest parents who will not send their children back to school.

In Kabarole District, more than 97 per cent of the schools have complied with the minimum SOPs and are allowed to reopen.

Funding

However, the DEO, Mr Patrick Rwakikara, said: "The Ministry of Education had only released Shs350,000 for each primary school to enable them to prepare for the reopening which is little to afford the necessary items," he said.

The Kabarole private school directors' association chairperson, Mr Lawrence Polly Birungi, said the situation of private schools is worse because they do not have money to run the schools.

"Some of the private schools kept paying their staff during the lockdown. As we prepare to reopen schools, the government should come to our rescue and give us money," he said.

In the central region, most schools have been cleared to reopen for candidate classes today, but the Ministry of Education says the inspection exercise will continue.

Mr Edward Muwanguzi, an official coordinating school inspection in Masaka, said most of the schools have fulfilled the required standard operating procedures.

"But it is also true that some schools are still struggling to buy equipment like temperature guns which seem to be expensive," he said.

Mr Bill Tomusange, the secretary for education in Buikwe District, said the inspection exercise had been completed and a final list of compliant schools will be released today.

The Wakiso DEO, Mr Fredrick Kiyingi, said his team has been overwhelmed by the big number of schools in the district.

"Wakiso District has more than 1,000 schools both government and private and that is the reason why all schools cannot open at the same time, but we expect all the schools to be inspected by next week, otherwise time is not on our side," he said.

In Kyotera District, 91 primary and 25 secondary schools have been cleared to resume, according to Mr Simon Peter Ntalagi, the district inspector of schools.

"We are trying to inspect schools and make sure they have the necessary SOPs but our parents in Rakai may fail to keep their candidates in the boarding section due to the huge basic requirements needed," he said.

Mr Steven Kakeeto, the officer-in-charge of schools in Masaka City, said most schools inspected so far have adhered to the Ministry of Health guidelines.

"I know there are some [schools] that have not yet fulfilled the guidelines, but our teams are still on the ground enforcing them," he noted.

The Kalungu DEO, Mr David Bbaale Mukasa, said all public schools have already acquired money to enable them fulfill SOPs.

The Entebbe Municipality principal education officer, Mr Daniel Ndaga, said only 37 primary schools out of 52 were cleared to reopen after fulfilling the requirements.

Fees structure revised

Ms Mary Mutebi, the headmistress of Kinoni Girls School in Rwampara District, said they have lowered their fees to allow girls complete the candidate classes.

Kinoni Girls' fees structure is currently at Shs324,000 down from Shs445,000 which the administration believes would enable the girls to complete education.

"The money we have charged is reasonable and to enable us to offset some bills like power and security that kept running during the lockdown and it will push us up to the end of the term," Ms Mutebi said.

Mr Leonard Ssali, the headteacher of St Noa Mawaggali Secondary School in Njeru, said they have not changed the fees structures. He said Senior Four candidates will continue to pay Shs620,000 and Senior Six candidates will pay Shs650,000.

Mr Richard Omusei, the resident director of Halcyon schools, said they have not had any increment in school fees payment, adding that those in Ordinary Level will pay the usual Shs497,500 while those in Advanced Level will pay Shs535,000.

School heads react

The head teacher of Gayaza High School, Ms Robinah Kizito Katongole, said the school is fully prepared to receive students.

Mr Benon Ssentongo, the head teacher of Wampeewo Day and Boarding School, said he secured a compliance certificate and was only waiting for students to report.

"We simply ask parents to follow the rules and pay fees before bringing their children," he said.

Mr Richard Omusei, the resident director of Halcyon schools, said they have secured a number of temperature guns to be used at their schools in Soroti and Serere districts.

Compiled by Bill Oketch, Felix Basiime, Patrick Ebong, Simon Peter Emwamu, Charity Akullo, Santo Ojok, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Gertrude Mutyaba, Derick Kissa, Ambrose Musasizi, Eve Muganga, Scovia Atuhaire, Alex Ashaba & Denis Edema

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