By Aloysious Kasoma
The Education Ministry has drafted new guidelines to offer actionable guidance for safe reopening and running of education institutions and reduce the impact of the pandemic on teaching and learning.
Although the government is yet to officially announce dates for the reopening of schools, several sources have already reported that Education institutions shall reopen starting September 20, for candidate classes (P7, S4, and S6) and final year students in higher institutions of learning.
To have a smooth reopening, authorities have held a series of meetings and developing possible working documents to guide the process with the latest offering guidance on several aspects ranging from school fees, reopening of international and special needs school, management of staff, and the effective utilization of schools’ facilities among others.
Fresh ideas considered include among others the possible full capacity reopening of schools for learners with special needs and international schools provided they can adhere to the social distancing of at least two meters.
“…given that these schools follow the school calendar of their international affiliates and their candidate classes do not correspond to the standard education cycles in Uganda, international schools in Uganda may reopen and operate at full capacity with effect from 21 Sept,” the document reads in part.
In earlier working documents, schools had been told to limit the number of students per classroom to only 15. However, the new draft advises schools to consider re-arrangement of the sitting of learners using all available rooms within the school to ensure the required social distancing.
In the arrangement, schools have been told to transform into classroom facilities like libraries, laboratories, dining halls, main halls where available. “…there should not be more than seventy learners in a room or hall of any size for a lesson or other purposes.”
Safe temporary shelters, such as tents, and open-air spaces, such as tree shades may be improvised as temporary venues for some classes are also looked at to be used as classrooms. But, institutions with large numbers of candidates, which cannot be accommodated in the available rooms at the social distancing shall make arrangements to operate either morning and afternoon shifts or get an alternate-day attendance schedule.
Through the same document, the ministry is also suggesting that education institutions shall not increase school fees but rather engage their parents to adopt flexible payment arrangements. “The management and governance of all education institutions shall review institutional annual work plans and budgets to realign them with the changes in education institution programmes and priorities.”
Again it is re-echoed, as stated in earlier proposals, that all primary and secondary schools that reopen shall operate either as day or boarding but not both.
However, the document is still silent on schools and learners from border districts who are still under full lockdown to date. But, schools are advised to take precautions to ensure that no learner, who I reported to entered Uganda illegally is allowed into the institution premises.
The document also presents restrictions on teacher part-timing and also barring of staff members who are not on duty from being at school on that given day. “Institutions shall ensure that restrictions are in place to prevent teachers from part-timing in multiple schools and thereby increasing the risk of spreading infections among institutions,” the guidelines state.
Although most officials at the ministry of education refused to be quoted on the said guidelines before the official announcement, they accept that there are several documents prepared and are currently conducting several meetings regarding the same.
“Even today (Wednesday) there was a meeting discussing similar matters. but all those documents remain provisional as we wait for higher authorities to make the final call but nothing much will change,” a source who sought to remain anonymous said.
Reports indicate that education authorities are to revise the Academic Year schedule to allow students to report for the second term of school this month as part of the phased reopening of educational institutions across the country.