By Monica Kobusiinge
Kampala: Members of Parliament have expressed their dissatisfaction at the government’s ill-preparedness in regard to the phased re-opening of schools-TheSpy Uganda reports.
This follows President Museveni’s 20th address to the nation against COVID-19 where he announced that schools would open for candidates and finalists starting October 15, 2020, which has caused a big debate not only to Members of Parliament but also to the general public wondering whether its the right time to have educational institutions reopened.
The Members of parliament were responding to a statement by the State Minister for Higher Education, Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo on government’s level of readiness to re-open schools, starting with finalists, during a plenary on Wednesday, 23 September 2020.
MPs insist that there are numerous gaps within the education and health sectors which if unattended to, will risk the lives of learners and the quality of education.
For instance, the government has issued a requirement for schools to procure temperature guns and have a dedicated health worker to screen learners and teachers for Covid-19, which MPs said is not tenable for government schools because they have not been provided with funds.
“During the lockdown, government schools were told to refund capitation grants since they were not operational but the government has not refunded the money, how do you expect, schools to buy temperature guns and other minimum requirements?” asked Kalungu County West legislator and a professional primary teacher Joseph Gonzaga Ssewungu.
Legislators are concerned that the yardstick for assessing learners during the forthcoming national examinations will be unfair to those from rural areas who did not access learning materials because they lacked electricity, radios, internet among others.
“If you go to Kampala city schools, teachers have been teaching online yet there are many rural schools where learners did not receive learning materials. So how will you assess these learners using the same yardstick?” Ssewungu asked.
Members said that the government should have carried out an assessment of homeschooling and ascertain if learners were prepared for the national examinations.
“In one district, learning materials were delivered at a sub-county which did not have electricity and a printing machine, the government must carry out an assessment of how learning materials were distributed and how effective they were,” added Hon. Mathias Mpuuga Masaka Municipality legislator.
MPs also think that re-opening schools at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is on the rise countrywide is not a wise decision, worsened by the uncertain plan on the safety of learners and teachers.
“We know that Uganda has entered another phase of Covid-19 where community transmission is on the rise and it is no longer easy to trace contacts, so if the government is proposing that students should go back to school, are we not risking lives of our children?” asked Hon. Kenneth Lubogo Bulamogi County legislator.
The financial implication of the Covid-19 pandemic on proprietors of private schools and parents, MPs said, must be of great concern to the government as some parents who have been out of business since March may not afford the school fees.
“What is the fate of parents who had already paid school fees?, how will schools take care of the funding gaps?, which budget will they use?” asked Mpuuga, adding that, “if the government does not address this, then there will be a conflict between teachers and schools.”
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who chaired the plenary also backed the MPs saying it was wrong for the government to re-open schools without a thorough consultation with key stakeholders.
“Government failed on masks, it also failed on e-learning, now you are forcing re-opening without consulting the key stakeholders involved,” Kadaga wondered.
The Speaker deferred the debate to Tuesday, 29 September 2020 and directed the education ministry to address the MP’s concerns and present to the country a sound plan before reopening schools.