Besigye unveils back-to-school plan

Politician Kizza Besigye addressing a press conference at his offices in Katonga Road, Kampala, yesterday. Photo/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA.

What you need to know:

The politician says children are less likely to contract Covid-19.

Politician Dr Kizza Besigye, has asked the government to “immediately” reopen schools, arguing that students marooned at home are young and have higher immunity to withstand Covid-19.

In addition, he said the children who constitute Uganda’s future are missing out on education and wasting away, yet many teachers by his estimate are under 40 years and less vulnerable to the virus.

Dr Besigye, a medical doctor and former personal physician to President Museveni, said the closure of education institutions and other prohibitions deployed by Education ministry in the name of the pandemic, are illogical and unjustified.

“The biggest crime this government has ever done is refusing to reopen schools. There is absolutely no justification for the measures that have been taken in education,” he said while addressing journalists at his offices on Katonga Road in Kampala yesterday.

He added:  “It is the basic knowledge about Covid that the least vulnerable are the young. The greatest majority of them will suffer without knowing Covid entered [their bodies].”

The government closed schools for the second time on June 18, around the time lower primary classes, which had been closed in the first lockdown in March 2020, were to resume.

Last week, President Museveni and wife Janet, who is also the Education minister, separately said schools would reopen if there is sufficient vaccination of students aged 12 and above.

The Ministry of Health, which has only vaccinated 1.1 million of the targeted 21.9 million Ugandans with donated vaccines, in a rejoinder noted that they are struggling to secure vaccines and inoculation of students was not in the plan.

Dr Besigye said the government should prioritise immunisation of teachers aged 50 and above while day scholars should isolate at home until their elderly parents receive the Covid jab.

“Let all kids go to school. We do not need to vaccinate kids. The kids can be organised in schools with health care systems and monitoring,” he said, proposing pay raise among other sweeteners to incentivise teachers that have drifted to other occupations to return to class.

Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) has since asked government to start recruiting new teachers to avoid teaching gaps when schools reopen, because many teachers have cultivated new fortunes in boda boda, brick-making and other menial jobs.

Dr Besigye said he shares the views of reopening schools with United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) that have called for reopening of schools.

In a July 12 statement, Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore, said: “The losses that children will incur from not being in school may never be recouped. From learning loss, mental distress, exposure to violence and abuse will be felt in their academics.”

According to Dr Besigye, the government should invest heavily in standard operating procedures (SOPs) like providing free water and soap in highly-congested places and slum areas so that people do not economise.

He said there is a need to set up mental health infrastructure to deal with the impact Covid-19 has left on the population.

Besides asking the government to revamp health infrastructure in the country, including increasing Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, Dr Besigye called for recruitment of more medical officers and consultants, saying his offer to volunteer as a consultant was rejected.

lord mayor

At the same press conference, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago called for an economic recovery plan to address the impact of Covid-19 on businesses.

“… even as the economy is reopened, no measures have been taken to address the critical issues. There’s no economic recovery plan, the way we entered into the lockdown is the way we’ve emerged out,” he said.

He asked the government to waive some taxes and provide a stimulus package for entrepreneurs and businesses through Uganda Development Bank (UDB).

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