Teachers set conditions for reopening schools

Thursday May 28 2020

Efforts. Wotmon Bruno, a Primary Seven

Efforts. Wotmon Bruno, a Primary Seven candidate, revises at home in Pece Vanguard Village, Gulu Municipality last week. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OKELLO  

By PATIENCE AHIMBISIBWE

Teachers under the Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) have outlined 10 conditions they want government to fulfil before reopening schools on June 8.
The conditions seek to avert the spread of the deadly coronavirus in various schools across the country.
In a May 22 letter to the Ministry of Education permanent secretary, Mr Alex Kakooza, the teachers’ union wants government to have a dialogue with stakeholders in the education sector before a decision for reopening is reached.
They cited the need to recruit more teachers to meet the recommended four- metre social distance between the learners, a residence nurse for every school in the county and fumigation of all facilities at the institutions before the learners report back.

Mr Filbert Baguma, the Unatu secretary, yesterday said all institutions must meet the standard operating procedures to keep all teachers and learners safe when schools begin in June.
“The labour rights of teachers and education support personnel must be respected and decent working conditions maintained.
“We must make sure that teachers and learners stay alive. The standard operating procedures must be adhered to by all schools and education institutions,” Mr Baguma said.

The teachers also want government to give schools temperature monitors for daily screening, facemasks, water supply, soap and other disinfectants, an isolation room and emergency transport in case of any cases.
“Classrooms should be re-organised basing on the recommended 4-metre distance between each learner. This distance should be maintained outside class, during break and dining times. The ministry should provide further guidance on schools without classrooms who study in makeshift structures,” Mr Baguma noted.

“Social distancing will also require that readers and other teaching and reading materials are not shared during class time. It will also require disinfecting the said learning materials after every use or before being used by another set of learners. Basing on the high enrolment in schools, we recommend that the ministry embarks on an urgent teacher recruitment,” he added.
The Unatu secretary general discouraged the notion of some schools forcing day scholars to join boarding section but appealed that a conducive alternative be availed for those coming from low income families to reach their respective schools.
The union also wants teachers who will work in this period to be given a risk allowance just like the health workers.

They want government to clarify the fees issues that parents paid last term before the schools abruptly closed in the middle of the term and want to know how the timetable will be for the remaining days.
Parliamentarians have also demanded that the government tables a watertight schools reopening plan in order to guarantee safety of learners and teachers.
On Monday, Cabinet discussed the draft plan but there was no agreement on how to proceed.

The ministers put in place a Cabinet sub-committee to look into the sticking issue.
A source close to the ministry, which declined to be quoted yesterday confirmed that they were in receipt of the teachers’ letter and that an emergency meeting with Education minister Janet Museveni together with her technical team was convened yesterday to agree with the union leadership on how to move forward.

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pahimbisibwe@ug.nationmedia.com

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