Education in this country has not been given due priority yet its effects cut across all sectors. The morality and above all, the economy of a nation largely depend on how educated the population is.
If Uganda values the future of the citizens, reopening schools should no longer be a prayer item but a pertinent issue that should prompt us to import expertise at whichever cost to revamp the entire rotting system.
Literally, some children haven’t been to school for over two academic years (each academic year comprises nine months). Many issues including 100% vaccination of teachers, have been attached to school reopening. None of them has been fully realized simply because education hasn’t been given equal priority as Security in which the operatives seem to be in a COVID free zone if not being COVID 19 repellant.
Following the Presidential address on 21st September 2021, schools are expected to reopen in January 2022. Let the ministry consider the following guidelines prior to reopening schools.
- Roll out an education plan to reopen schools. It seems we are working on probabilities. Why don’t we have fixed dates and plan in line to that? The use of ‘if’ clause in reopening plan is both conditional and probable. (If teachers are vaccinated… if private schools are reregistered…) are suggestions of standing on the cowardly lane, unrealistic and words of futurists. Don’t we have the planning department? Lack of comprehensive plan and implementation strategies depict failure and being unfocused.
- Intensify on support supervision: Let the Inspectors of school, secretaries of education at district, municipalities, and Sub-counties/divisions carry out support supervision to ensure compliance of SOPs. Certificates of compliance be issued to those schools meeting the requirements with assurance of January 2022 schools reopening. In addition, let lists of compliant schools be posted on noticeboards, markets and most public places for clients to see which schools will/will not reopen.
- Convene workshops for refresher training. Teachers should be orientated to create awareness about the new Curriculum. Trust me, if the National Curriculum Development Centre has compressed the curriculum, it is paramount for teachers understand how to handle it. This means, the current text books can’t fully function since some information has been dropped. The ministry and NCDC shouldn’t just wait for reopening date by the President.
- Provide psychosocial support to both teachers and learners. Children who have spent over two years outside the education cycle need to be supported on how to adjust and concentrate on studies. The majority have outgrown their classes, their mental development is above their class levels and may look misfits in class or the learning environment generally. Teachers will also need tips on administering discipline, the fact that children are on Mature Entry Scheme. Otherwise, expect clashes between teachers and learners. The graphs for indiscipline and juvenile cases are most likely to heighten and influence dropout.
- Benchmark to find out what other countries do. In this very region, many countries have schools operating yet COVID 19 hasn’t spared them. Find out how they control the pandemic amidst school operation. The ministry should carry out comparative study in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. What are they doing that we can’t do? The Ministry can also Consult UPDF on how they manage their training schools which have never been closed even when medical schools couldn’t operate.
- Collect and display vaccination data: District, municipal and sub-county authorities should display lists of vaccinated staff and follow up those not vaccinated. The same should also be done by schools for the public to choose where to take their children.
- Consider deleting the unvaccinated staff: If teachers’ vaccination is a requirement for schools to reopen, of the two sections; the public and privately run, which one hasn’t complied? As private institutions undergo fresh registration, (a topic for another discussion) public schools should consider deletion of those who have not been vaccinated. A deadline should be given within which all school workers should be vaccinated. Why do we make the whole nation, the entire generation suffer at expense of those enjoying government salaries? Let them present vaccination cards in order to access their salaries or face deletion. The same should be in private schools.
- Mandatory vaccination of priority groups: I am reliably informed that there is no legal framework to have mandatory vaccination in Uganda but I guess there is a law to quarantine people during any epidemic and in this case COVID 19 pandemic. How do bylaws work? Can’t we execute them? To save lives, the unvaccinated staff should be barred from having physical contact with those vaccinated and no learning institution should have service from such group.
Let’s take mature steps, reopen schools, and manage them well to save the rotting education system.
The author is a Senior Educationist and head of institution
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