On April 20, the Minister of Education and Sports, Ms Janet Museveni, addressed the country on the measures the ministry was taking following the extension of the countrywide lockdown.
However, one section of society remained unaddressed; the parents and guardians. This should sound like a paradox, but it is not.
The minister’s concern in the address was on the fate of re-opening institutions of learning – from pre-primary to university. Her address, a response to the Covid-19 crisis, was to soon narrow down to pre-university institutions, and then concentrate on upper primary schooling.
Ms Museveni also mentioned how continuity of learning happens beyond the classroom. She appealed to parents to ensure that children were undergoing especially the informal and non-formal education.
She, however, opened another window; the ministry was to also ensure continuity of learning at home through providing learning packages on basic concepts taught in school. Radios, televisions and online platforms were to be used. Learners were to access pre-recorded lessons and other materials online.
Self-study print materials were to be distributed to learners through a bureaucracy whose efficiency we are yet to see and assess. Yet still, whereas the minister said the self-study materials were to help those from homes that cannot access radios, televisions and online resources, the distribution, she mentioned later on, was for upper primary, not secondary school.
Nonetheless, the minister hoped that soon, life would return to normal and emphasised that education institutions needed to be prepared for resumption of learning. The minister then advised parents to “counsel and guide the children for the re-opening of schools with enthusiasm.”
Before we come to the unaddressed issues pertaining parents and guardians, we should ask, who advises the Ministry of Education and Sports in these times?
The minister stated that the President, the Ministry of Health, and the National Taskforce on coronavirus, were guiding the ministry’s action plan.
Truthfully, the advisory bodies mentioned are already overwhelmed to guide a ministry whose only task for now is to design post-lockdown action plan.
It is the parents and guardians, for whom education is a direct weight, who can possibly help design a contextual way forward. But are the people in these ministries not parents and guardians? They are, but they have been working, and receiving salaries.
We, the other fees-payers, and of all categories, are already financially stressed, beyond explanation. We cannot afford to pay for three terms this year, given the circumstances from which the re-opening of learning institutions is likely to happen.
Our hope is that as the ministry plans, it can only look at designing two terms, and perhaps extending the time of stay at school for the learners.
The only possibility can be of allowing schools to increase a limited monetary percentage on term fees to cover for the extension.
Otherwise, if the children are going back to school, to come back home after a month, demanding the millions of money we have not worked for, we are headed for trouble.