What you need to know:
- In March 2020, government closed all learning institutions after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, government announced that schools would resume this year after nearly two years.
Oliver Wanyenya, a Senior Six student of Mbale Progressive Secondary School in Mbale City, woke up as early as 6am yesterday to start her journey to school.
Upon arrival at the school at 7.20am, Wanyenya was enthusiastic and didn’t know what to expect, having been away from her classmates and friends for almost two years.
“I am happy that we are finally back to school. It has been a long time. I hope we will study normally and see no more closures,” Wanyenya told a Daily Monitor reporter.
Ms Wanyenya is among the millions of learners across the country who returned to class yesterday after two years of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pupils learning under trees
In Mbale City, we visited various schools and found that some pupils were studying under trees while others sat on the floor of the classroom due to lack of desks.
At Buwamwangu Primary School, pupils were found preparing lunch for the teachers as there was no learning going on yet. The pupils were not wearing facemasks.
During his inspection of various schools to ensure strict compliance to Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) yesterday, the Mbale Resident City Commissioner (RCC), Mr Ahamada Washaki, was seen sending pupils and students without facemasks back home.
“Schools that fail to follow the stipulated guidelines by allowing learners without facemasks into classrooms will be closed,” he said.
Urban schools observe SOPs
On the contrary, learners in urban areas wore facemasks and were observing social distancing in class as recommended.
The safety measures including handwashing facilities and having temperature checked at the entrances to the schools were also implemented in most urban schools.
Mr Samuel Hiisa, the head teacher of St Mary’s High School, Busamaga in Mbale, said: “We have managed to make sure that all the SOPs are in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
Joanita Nambozo, a student at St Mary’s High School, said: “By now, I would be at the university but here I am still in Senior Six because of lockdowns. Many of my colleagues gave up and are now mothers.”
Ms Joyce Kabuni, the head teacher of Nabuyonga Primary School, Mbale said pupils are happy to return to school.
Mr Michael Wakyanya, the head teacher of North Road Primary School, said the turn up of pupils is overwhelming.
Mr Julius Ojuluk, the head teacher of Mbale Progressive Secondary School, said: “We are receiving reports from parents that they are still looking for scholastic materials for their children.”
Nakasongola schools register zero learners
In Nakasongola District, the leaders are searching for parents who they say deliberately refused to allow their children to report back to school after a number of government schools registered no pupils on the first day of the academic year.
Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the Nakasongola deputy RDC, said the district monitoring team was shocked to find some of the schools empty yet the teachers were present and ready to conduct lessons.
“When we visited River Kafu Primary School in Nakitoma Sub-county, only one pupil had arrived by 10am out of the more than 100 expected on the first day of school opening,” he said.
At Kigejjo Church of Uganda Primary School in Kalongo Sub-county, only the head teacher, Mr James Kagga, and three staff members reported to school yesterday.
Mr Kagga said parents are to blame for the poor turn up of pupils because several of the children were busy helping their parents with garden work.
In Fort Portal City, Kyebambe Girls Secondary School, students were asked to register and have their temperature taken before they were allowed entry.
At Crown High School, Maranatha in Kamwenge District, more than 100 students had reported to school by 11am.
Ntoroko schools remain submerged
Umoja and Rwangara primary schools in Ntoroko District have not reopened yet because classrooms were submerged by floods.
Mr Paul Asiimwe, the head teacher of Rwangara Primary School said: “I am preparing a place where I can put a temporary office and we are also waiting for tents which were promised to us by UNICEF.”
In Mukono, the head teacher of Bishop East Primary School, Mr Christopher Ssebagala, said they are not accepting pregnant and breastfeeding girls to attend classes. The school is a government-aided but run by the Church of Uganda.
He also said they are not accepting pupils who have not paid for meals.
In some private schools, the turn up of children is low. At Ngandu RCI Primary School, only 12 pupils reported to school yesterday.
Bukomansimbi School closed over fights
In Bukomansimbi, parents, pupils, and teachers at Kabigi Taqwa Islamic Institute in Butenga Sub-county were left stranded after they were denied entry into the school by police.
The police closed the school on Sunday after a fight broke out at the weekend over management of the institution.
On Sunday, a group led by Sheikh Haruna Jjemba descended on the school and forced the headmistress, Ms Fausta Nalugo, out of the premises, saying she cannot lead the Muslim founded school when she is Catholic.
Mr Jjemba alleges that Ms Nalugo besides being a non-Muslim, is not qualified to head the school because she lacks the required academic papers.
Ms Nalugo was employed by Sheikh Abdul Jabal Mawanda, the director of the school.
When the group loyal to Sheikh Mawanda learnt about a plan to throw out Ms Nalugo, they stormed the school and a fight ensued, leaving about five people injured.
Ms Nalugo called for government intervention to avoid escalation of the matter.
The Director of Studies at the school, Mr Deogratius Kyeyune, said: “The school used to perform poorly in national examinations until management was changed and it started getting first grades.”
In Kasese District, students at Basecamp Primary School and Road Barrier Primary School in Kilembe Division, Kasese Municipality, were found cleaning classrooms in the morning.
In Kabale District, the head teacher of Child Africa Junior School, Mr Augustine Muwanika, said although some of the teachers did not turn up, new ones have been recruited to replace them.
“The pupils’ turn up was good because more than 70 percent of the expected pupils turned up for studies,” he said.
The head teacher at Kabale Preparatory School in Kabale Town, Mr Brichards Turyeijuka, said all the teachers turned up and about 95 percent of the expected pupils turned up yesterday.
In Soroti City, the head teacher of Teso College Aloet, Mr Julius Opaaso, said: “The class teachers have been asked to ensure the task of reorienting the students is successfully done.”
In Lira, at Arocha Primary School in Apac Municipality, pupils were seen slashing the compound before they could be allowed to enter classrooms.
Tororo registers high turn up
In Tororo District, the turn up mostly in primary schools was high, though most had no facemasks.
Ms Benedette Ololokojo, the head teacher of Rock View School in Tororo Municipality, said many learners returned without facemasks and the school had to improvise.
“We are only worried if we will be able to sustain providing facemasks because the ones we have at school are disposable ones,” she said.
Ms Rose Mary Akongo, the head teacher of Oriyoi Primary School in Osukuru Sub-county, said: “We have reports indicating that some of the students were married off during the lockdowns but in case they come back, we will allow them.”
Mbarara learners being counselled
At Mbarara High School in Mbarara City, the administration has set up a counselling centre for staff and other workers.
“We agreed with the board that we hire a counsellor for staff and other workers for two weeks. He will be responsible for counselling teachers, who have been away for long,” Mr Ham Ahimbisibwe, the head teacher, said.
Mr Ahimbisibwe said since the teachers went through psychological distress due to Covid-19-induced lockdown, they need to be counselled.
The head teacher of Mbarara Junior School, Mr Nathan Mugume, said the teachers and staff have been trained to psychologically assess pupils and prepare them to start.
Some schools in Mbarara are demanding zero balance of school fees while others demand for 50 percent before being cleared.
“How do you expect us to begin? Our only source of funds is fees,” Ms Assumpta Busingye, the co-director of Three Stars Junior School, Kakiika, Mbarara City, said.
In Ibanda District, there was low turnup though teachers turned up in large numbers.
“Most of the teachers have reported at their respective schools but we are experiencing a slow turn up of learners,” Mr Peter Nsiimire, the Ibanda District education officer, said.
Mr Nsiimire advised the head teachers not to block teachers who are not fully vaccinated.
In Kalangala, at Kibanga Primary School in Kalangala Town Council, only 76 pupils out of 460 reported to school.
At Kinyamira Primary School in Bujumba Sub-county only 34 of the 320 pupils reported.
“Some children got pregnant and their male counterparts are still engaged in casual labour to earn some money,” Mr Musoke Moses, the head teacher of Kinyamira Primary School, said.
The Buyende district education officer, Mr Dison Bwire, said though the turn up is low, schools are ready.
*Compiled by Fred Wambede, Phoebe Masongole, Alex Ashaba, Morris Mumbere, Bill Oketch, Robert Muhereza, Emmanuel Arineitwe, Olivier Mukaaya, Simon Peter Emwamu, Rajab Mukombozi, Elly Karenzi and Felix Ainebyoona, Joseph Omollo & Kesiime Brianadams, Jessica Sabano.