Uganda: Low Turnout Mars School Reopening

By Bill Oketch

Several government-aided primary schools in Lango Sub-region received few pupils as Primary Four and Primary Five classes reported to school yesterday.

The pupils started a new term after staying home for more than a year following the closure of schools due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country last year.

At Apye Primary School, Adok Sub-county in Dokolo District, no pupil returned to school on the first day.

Before the closure of learning institutions in March 2020, Apye Primary School had an enrolment of 175 pupils in Primary Four and 141 in Primary Five.

Mr Yuventino Okwir, the school head teacher, said: "None of our pupils in those classes has reported to school today. I think they are still busy helping their parents with digging now that rain has returned, but I am sure they will start coming next week."

In Apac District, the Primary Four classroom was empty at Akato Primary School, Ibuje Sub-county.

The head teacher, Mr John Charles Alanya, said only four pupils in Primary Five reported back to school.

"Only two girls and two boys reported to school but the rest are still home," he said.

In Lira City, the number of pupils who returned to school on the first day at VH Public Primary School was the highest among government schools.

Of 338 Primary Four pupils, who registered last year, 112 returned. They included 47 boys and 65 girls. In Primary Five, 131 reported. Last year, there were 318 pupils in Primary Five.

Mr Godfrey Pauma, the deputy head teacher, said they are optimistic that by today their enrolment would have increased since most of their pupils live in urban centres.

The turnout in private schools was high. At St Gracious Primary School in Lira City, of 150 pupils who were in Primary Four last year, 110 reported to school.

The head teacher, Mr Leo Elem, said they have already started serious teaching to recover lost ground.

Mr Elem asked parents to force their children to return to school because there are some stubborn ones who want to drop out after staying home for long.

He added that creativity will be included in their teaching because they have been given a very short time.

"Government has given us only two months to teach these pupils before they are promoted to the next level which starts on August 9," he said on phone yesterday.

At Fountain Boarding Primary School, a private school in Lira City West Division, 30 of 43 pupils in Primary Four reported back.

Mr Alex Alani, the head teacher, said he was very surprised by the attendance.

"Since this is a boarding school some pupils started returning on Monday and I am sure by the end of today [Tuesday] more pupils will report to school," he said.

The Lira District inspector of schools, Mr Patrick Olwit, attributed the low turnout to the mix-up in communicating the reopening of schools.

He said the original date for reopening was April 12, but later it was adjusted to April 6.

"Another thing interfering with the pupils' return to school is Easter celebrations since both pupils and their parents are still in an Easter mood," he said.

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