As the adage goes, “Prevention is better than cure,” Government implemented the closure of academic institutions on 20/3/2020 having been threatened by the global pandemic. Uganda is steadily proving to be partially successful in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. However, managing the post covid-19 lockdown impact will be a mountainous journey to traverse.
Like the Corona Virus attacks humans by reducing the oxygen levels in the blood and eventually causing the collapse of vital organs and death, it also shuts down vital economic organs including industries and services such as farms, tourism, hotels and schools.
Uganda seems to be heading to a recession in 2020/2021 financial year. Bank of Uganda projects that at least two million people will lose their jobs by the end of the pandemic; 15% of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) will disappear with skyrocketing prices on imports due to scarcity. Uganda’s GDP too, is expected to fall from 5.2% in 2019 to 2.3% this year. Moreover, all the key drivers of Uganda’s economy: industry, agriculture and services have been affected and they cannot recover overnight. Consequently, all those whose businesses are crippled and those who will or have already lost their jobs are either parents or guardians to the school going children who may henceforth, fail to pay school fees for their dependents this year. This will direly affect the education sector which is entirely dependent on the health and soundness of the economy. Due to economic breakdown of all
sectors caused by the lockdown, some private schools may close completely as many parents do not
have money and schools may not afford to pay their staff, yet since March this year, many teachers
have either received half or no salaries at all.
The other dimension is that’ although the Ministry of education has intervened by instituting learning through newspapers, self-study materials and televised lessons, such interventions fall short, due to the fact that learners were not prepared for self-study learning approach and dearth of technical support to facilitate self-learning process.
The big question remains as to whether academic institutions should reopen or not owing to the predicament of observing the established measures to contain the spread of the pandemic. Then there is the question of the asymptomatic cases who are potentially spreading the infection to communities inadvertently. Their status can only be confirmed after testing which costs at least $65 (240,000/=).
The implication of the above is that, if learning institutions are to resume any time soon this year, all the 15 million learners and staff in all the 23,580 academic institutions will need to be tested, permanently confined in schools and re-tested after sometime until the end of a term/semester. What remains unclear is whether Government is ready to meet the cost of $975 million (UGX. 3.6 trillion) to test all these learners and staff. Having a temperature monitors at school entrances may not at all guarantee safety of learners in schools due to the reality of asymptomatic carriers. Also, due to limited school facilities, social distancing will pragmatically be inapplicable to learning institutions.
Unless the Government is planning to earmark some special funding to support in mass testing of all learners
and teachers as well as clearing education expenses including statutory obligations, academic institutions should remain closed. Otherwise, the education system is poised to experience the worst school dropout and failure rates in the recent history across academic levels. Thus, UNEB, UBTEB, UNMEB and others should plan to call off this year’s national examinations and all academic institutions should be advised to redesign and plan their academic programmes for 2021 academic year unless an affirmative intervention is urgently promulgated.
Obilan Abubakar, The writer is a PhD (Education) student at IUIU
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