Cabinet has approved the phased reopening of schools for learners starting with those in semi-candidate classes like P.5 and P.6 as well as S.3 & S.5 as soon as possible.
According to a cabinet communique issued at the Uganda Media Centre, the decision to space the reopening was taken to reduce overcrowding, a major risk factor for the transmission of the Disease.
The communique notes that non candidate classes can resume classes alongside the candidates and when the candidates leave, then lower classes can come in.
In its sitting held yesterday February 1, Cabinet approved that the pre-primary schools (Nursery) should not be re-opened because learners in this category cannot observe the SOPs and are prone to respiratory infections including COVID-19 and in addition, most of the pre-primary schools are day and therefore, there is a lot of interface between the Learners, Teachers and Parents hence increasing the risk of infection.
In the same sitting, Cabinet tasked the Leadership of the Ministries of Education and Sports and Health to undertake a countrywide tour of schools and Institutions to ascertain their preparedness to reopen for non candidate classes.
“In order to complete the academic year and ensure progression, the semi-candidate classes (P.6, S.3 and S.5 should report back to school in the short term and study (in shifts where necessary) with the Candidate classes given that PLE will be completed on 31st March, 2021 and UCE on 6th April, 2021, there will be more space in schools, when candidates leave, to enable the other classes report back and study to complement home schooling,” the cabinet statement reads.
For the classes studying in shifts, teachers will be guided to work through the home-schooling materials with a view of explaining and clarifying concepts and correcting self-study work done by Learners at home.
Cabinet decided that Promotion to the next class be based on attendance and continuous assessment of class work and assignments.
On the side of the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Institutions, Primary Teachers’ Colleges (PTCs) and National Teachers’ Colleges (NTCs) Cabinet approved them to open in the short term provided they are able to observe the SOPs.
“Primary Teachers’ Colleges and National Teachers’ Colleges have the infrastructure capacity for the number of students enrolled to observe the social distancing requirement, therefore all students in these colleges should be allowed to report back with the final year students,” Cabinet decided.
The Universities will open in a staggered manner that will ensure compliance with COVID 19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and safety.
Prior to the re-opening of Education Institutions, the Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Local Government and other key Ministries in conjunction with Local Governments will carry out a massive awareness campaign to enable Parents and Learners prepare for the re-opening.
Cabinet said that Education Institutions should emphasize preventive actions for Learners and Staff on a daily basis stipulated in the SOPs and this should include training of Staff on the SOPs so as to enable transfer of knowledge to the Learners and other workers in the Education Institutions.
It added: “The SOPs should continuously be reviewed and updated based on the trend of the pandemic and in view of this, the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Health will review the SOPs and guidelines in light of the emerging issues before the reopening.”
The Ministry of Health will constitute a team of doctors to visit schools affected by COVID-19 in support of schools and District COVID-19 Task Forces.
It was decided that all Learners be required to wear face masks and parents shall be encouraged to provide two (2) face masks for each of their children and “routine School Health Information Systems for surveillance purposes should be developed and these will be used for day-today reporting on absenteeism, illness, symptoms and disease surveillance efforts to detect and respond to the outbreak.”
“An absenteeism monitoring plan should be developed to track attendance of Learners, Teachers and non-teaching Staff to enable monitoring and alerting of local Health Officials about large increases in Learner and Staff absenteeism, particularly if the absence is due to respiratory illness,” The Decisions read.
It was also decided that a communication plan should be developed to enable sharing of information within the school community on issues of COVID 19 and this plan should include strategies for sharing information with Staff, Students and their families.
However the Ministry of Education and Sports Permanent secretary Alex Kakooza, said that the President will make a final say Tomorrow Wednesday.
The decision to re-open Universities and schools to non-Candidate classes comes at a time when the Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe had written to the minister of Education Janat Kataha Museveni requesting her ministry and government to let them carry out a blended teaching and learning.
“Mama I wish to brief you on proposal to implement a blended teaching and learning for all the Students”
He said under this arrangement, students would come to campus in shifts, with each group staying for a smooth and undergoing intensive training, including practical work where applicable.
“The rest of the teaching is done online and students again come to campus for examinations in shifts during the last month of the semester” he said.
He said the advantage of the arrangement is that every student gets the opportunity for a face to face and Practical training while observing the SOPs.