As government prepares to reopen the economy and let most of the entities that have remained under wraps since March this year, there has arisen a number of dissenting voices, urging President Museveni to shelve plans to get schools and other entities reopened.
This is extremely sad and it clearly shows how hypocritical our MPs are. Those against the reopening of those entities, especially schools cite the recent NRM primaries where so many of the COVID-19 prevention guidelines were disregarded as voters lined up to vote candidates of their choice in preparation for the upcoming general elections slated for next year. They claim that as SOPs were breached blatantly, they expect a surge in infections and so it would be risky for the children to return to school. Some go on to suggest that Government should go on and declare this academic year dead so that students resume studies all over at the start of term one next year.
Others go on to say that school should never resume until Uganda’s curve flattens.
This is extremely unfortunate that our very own MPs can be so myopic and indeed, so selfish! I think being members of parliament, these men and women should be a lot smarter and not get involved in arguments that for me, are so pedestrian! My expression of disappointment is premised on a number of reasons.
1. Parliament has remained open since March.
It is very surprising that even when Coronavirus arrived in Uganda in March, the parliament of Uganda has remained operational, despite government clearly ignoring them in the fight against the pandemic. These MPs did not come out to oppose their continued sitting and have therefore enjoyed their salaries and allowances unabetted!
On the other hand, their constituents have suffered gravely, with Schools, worship places, bars, nightclubs, sport, lodges, non-food markets, mobile markets etc, still unable to return to work! This is hypocritical to say the least. If indeed our lovely and caring MPs cared so much for our people, they would have rejected calls to meet and stayed at home just like their constituents, to suffer together! These people receive over 6 million shillings as housing allowance, whereas many of the masses have been reduced to sources of ridicule as many have been thrown out of their rented apartments. The biggest majority of MPs have not said a word in regard to the plight of their constituents who up to now lack what to eat because of their places of work being locked up to this day! I find this so evil with ill intentions littered all over it! We know for a fact that many of them go to parliament to transact business rather than represent the people in their constituencies. Let them mind that business of theirs and let us be! Our MPs seem to have gotten out of touch with reality, the reality that Ugandans are too badly off and are starving to near death, can’t pay their bills anymore and are down to bare bones! That’s so sad, and now they’re out to seek re-election!
2. No one knows when COVID-19 will end
COVID-19 has no cure. In spite of so many companies trying to find a globally acceptable vaccine, none of them has managed one. According to the World Health Organisation, the quickest a vaccine could be discovered is June 2021. The same body claims that there may never be a vaccine against COVID at all. These two statements from the global health body must be taken very seriously by all countries around the world, especially those who are still under the illusion of the endless lockdowns. It’s utter shortsightedness by our MPs to suggest that until the COVID-19 curve is flattened the entities still under lockdown should remain locked. What if it’s true and a vaccine is out midway through next year?
What if all companies trying to invent the vaccine fail and there’s no vaccine after all? What would be the fate of those businesses? These are the questions those shortsighted MPs should think of finding solutions to rather than front uninternalised and toxic views!
3. The severity of Uganda’s version of COVID-19.
COVID-19 has ravaged the world with millions already positive for the virus and close to a million people dead. In Uganda however, the impact of Coronavirus has been more economic than health-related. Yes, we are approaching 5,000 positive cases and about 56 deaths, while over 2,500 have recovered. In an interview with BBC’s Focus on Africa by Audrey Brown on 24th July 2020, the head of COVID-19 case management at Mulago Hospital, Dr Fred Nakwagala gave the following statistics:
About 40% of our positive cases are completely asymptomatic, while those with symptoms, possibly 97% are mild symptoms, the flu-like illnesses that everyone has been experiencing before.
This came following Dr Byarugaba Baterana, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director calling upon government to remove the lockdown as most of the Coronavirus patients can be treated at home! Even the Uganda Medical Association recently called upon government to stop hospitalising everyone just because they’ve tested positive saying that most of those should just self-isolate at home. Clearly, the mild nature of the desease Uganda got is such that it should not lead to a breakdown in business. This has been backed up by the number of recoveries Uganda has registered since the virus set foot in Uganda sx months ago despite there being no known cure for COVID-19.
From the anaysis provided by the health experts, contracting the virus is not that much of a problem since it has a much less impact on Ugandans as most of us are naturally resistant to it because our bodies have learned to fight against such flu-like infections that have troubled us since time immemorial.
The claim by the MPs to be worried about the reopening of schools premising on the ongoing NRM primaries as a recipe for a huge surge in infections is unfounded. It is based on a clear lack of knowledge of how the virus operates. Of the 56 deaths, the youngest is a 26-year-old. On average, by this age, Ugandans are expected to have left school. Even those who have been troubled by the virus though not dead, are way beyond school-going age. Even globally, the mortality rate for children is put at 1%, while Uganda’s infant mortality rate due to COVID is 0%! Is the so-called fear by our lovely MPs about the risk faced by our children if they returned to school founded? The answer is a resounding NO! Instead this is a pretence to care about Ugandans, yet their intentions are completely selfish. They must be saddists, whose pride is derived from seeing the poor teachers, market vendors, nightclub owners, bartenders suffer!
4. The Magufuli case.
Despite the global threat posed by Coronavirus, John Pombe Magufuli, the Tanzania President has resisted the fuss and kept the country’s economy open. As we talk today, everything there is as normal as they come. Schools are fully operational, football is being played in fully packed stadiums, politics is at fever pitch with Presidential elections looming. Our very own Ziza Bafana and his colleagues were arrested just over two weeks ago on their way from Tanzania to perform at a music concert. Last week, CBS FM reported that Ugandans at the Uganda/Tanzania border have resorted to taking their children to Tanzania to study. This means that there’s no difference between Tanzania which decided to disregard the Coronavirus threat and Uganda which took a different route because, Ugandan children go to Tanzania to attend school and back to Uganda on a daily basis without any outbreak of infections in their areas. Even Ziza Bafana went and performed at a concert in Tanzania and tested negative on return. Keeping our children at home because of COVID is one of the biggest misconceptions there ever was!
5. Children are safer at school.
When President Museveni suspended school on March 20th, the logic was to that school-going children would be safer at home than at school. Six months on, it is clear that our children are worse off being at home than at school. Since March, over 21,000 girls have been sexually molested and majority of them impregnated, according to police reports. Many of them have been given away to men for marriage in exchange for money/food. In Kampala alone, over 547 girls have been defiled during this lockdown, and that’s only as far as what has been reported! These are just sexual harassments that are being talked about in the reports, but there’s every likelihood that many of these poor girls have contracted HIV and will die at some point! Where then is the logic in keeping children safe from COVID only for them to die from deadlier diseases? What about those boys who have resorted to business and their academic career is over as we speak? What type of generation is Uganda nurturing? Are prepared to lose our generation because of COVID?
These and more questions should be addressed by our MPs instead of them getting absorbed into cheap and selfish politics!
What needs to be done is for government to ensure that schools are reopened safely and that no school fails to open because they don’t have the ability to enforce the SOPs due to financial incapacitation. Government should make a swift intervention and put up a fund for private schools to borrow and get up to speed with reopening as it very clear that many parents, some of whom are still at home, will send their children back to school without fees, yet schools operate on monetory grounds.
It is also wise to reopen with finalists first and use that as sample space before deciding on what to do with the rest of the students. On the issue of implementing social distance, schools should adopt Monday-Wednesday, Thursday-Saturday operation so that a student would attend school three days a week rather than the traditional five. They could as well apply a morning/afternoon approach in schools when numbers are very high. This would create the desired space between learners during lessons.
On the time for coverage of syllabuses having seemingly gone, the education ministry should simply change the calendar, make this term second term and the January to April term the final term in which the final exams would be done!
These and many other plans can be effected to save the situation. But declaring this year a dead one when there’s no assurance that by January Coronavirus will have subsided is utter nonsense!
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