An estimated 1.8 million students in candidate or finalist classes across the country are set to return to school by October 15.
But the timing and newly released Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have triggered heated debate and anxiety.
Although President Yoweri Museveni had long expressed his desire to keep children at home until the COVID-19 shock has passed, pressure from the education stakeholders, and perhaps reality that COVID shall be around for some time, appears to have forced him to reluctantly accept to let schools reopen.
But as schools and universities prepare to congregate thousands of students amid the outbreak, some are raising pertinent questions; will the government cater for testing of students and teachers before they interact? And who is going to cater for the cost? How often will the testing last?
Well the, the ministry is assuming that all students and teachers have kept themselves safe, so they have decided that they will not be tested. Yes, the government has not planned for any testing of students whatsoever.
The only provision the government has, whose implementation remains to be seen, is to test teachers just in Kampala – which is considered a high risk area Judging from the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Alex Kakooza, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education told us this week while at a news conference that they would have loved to test all learners and teachers but for lack of money, they will skip it and only focus on high risk areas.
“The preferred position would be to test all but as you know no country has capacity to test all citizens,” he said.
Instead, Kakooza revealed they will focus on the affordable bit of the prevention, which is distribution of face masks.
Kakooza said: “We’re to give two masks to every learner as well as embarking on random visits to schools to ensure effective implementation of SOPs.”
The reopening of schools is still considered a suicide mission for many parents judging by the recent reports by the government that indicate that COVID-19 has spread in the community.
The reopening of schools minus testing appears to go against the advice of health experts including from the ministry of health.
Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has called for increased vigilance in stopping the spread of the pandemic by increasing testing capacity and observance of Standard SOPs.
She noted recently that:
“We are now in phase 4 of the pandemic and this means widespread community transmission as is evidenced by what’s happening in Kampala and other parts of the country. We need to do more testing, sweep out cases and ensure timely treatment”
By Thursday September 24, 2020, Uganda had lost 71 people to COVID-19 out a total of 7218 confirmed to have been infected with the virus.
Majority of the victims of the disease were in Kampala according to the ministry of health.