A leading Civil Society Organization working in the area of human rights and children has raised alarm about the government’s plan to allow learners and teachers back in schools without testing against COVID-19.
Raising Voices, a non-governmental Organization told The Sunrise Newspaper that the government needs to not only pay for testing of all people in schools against the killer pandemic, but also test regularly.
“It would only be safe, if these children and teachers are tested and not only tested once but there should be plans for routine testing otherwise, we shall wake up one day with lots of children getting sick,” said Yvonne Laruni, a programs officer at Raising Voices.
Laruni adds that the government needs to pay for the costs of testing as the parents and school administrators play their respective roles of paying for fees and taking care of school matters.
Laruni also called the creation of a Taskforce comprising officials from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health to review these draft Standard Operating Procedures to ensure they are realistic and enforceable
The appeal comes in the wake of the government’s announcement that all finalists from P.7 to University shall resume classes on October 15.
In subsequent guidelines by the ministry of education, the ministry issued further guidelines that make the reopening a rather complicated and worrisome venture.
Raising Voices’ plea to test however appears to have fallen on deaf ears as the government said it does not plan to test children for lack of money.
Education Permanent Secretary Alex Kakooza told a news conference this week that the only plan they have is to test teachers in high risk areas of Kampala.
Some of the sticky SOPs released by the ministry of education this week include the ban on the use of public transport such as taxis and Boda Bodas for transporting students.
This SOP has triggered a storm with many saying it is meant to exclude the poor children whose parents cannot afford private cars or pay for a school van especially during the hard economic environment caused by COVID-19.
Laruni notes that failure by the government to play it’s role or introduce unrealistic SOPs will undermine cooperation from other stakeholders and hence adherence to the rest of the SOPs.
“So what is really important is that the heads of schools take time to analyze their schools and see how best they can work, say if it’s a boarding school, how do they decongest the boarding section.
If it’s in terms of hygiene how do they improve the hygiene. If it is in terms of crowding of the classes how do they split the classes so it’s really a case by case basis. But it still goes back to commitment” -Laruni
The call for widespread testing has also been raised by some members of parliament.
Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal this week tabled a motion asking for government to decide cheaper means of testing especially before schools reopen.
Ogwal’s proposal was rejected in Parliament when State Minister for Planning David Bahati said it required too much money than the government could afford.