Govt makes U-turn on use of phones, school visits  

Students in class at Kakungulu Memorial Secondary School in Kibuli, Kampala on January 10. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The government says they are still doing research on the use of phones in schools.

The government has made a U-turn barely less than 24 hours after proposing to authorise the use of mobile phones by learners in schools and lifting the ban on visitation days.  
Addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Education and Sports offices in Kampala yesterday, the State Minister for Higher Education, Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo, said the use of smart phones by learners within the school environment will be effected after government develops a policy that would guide the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) gadgets by learners.

Mr Muyingo said the Ministry of Education is working on a policy that will soon be presented to Cabinet for approval to guide the use of ICT in institutions of learning and also promote equity in access to quality education.
 He ordered all schools that had already permitted their students to use smart phones at school to conduct research on different topics and as required by the abridged curriculum for lower secondary to stop with immediate effect. 

 READ: Does your child need a mobile phone at school?
 “As a ministry, we are still studying the matter of authorising the use of mobile phones by learners in the school setting. We want to holistically address this challenge within the context of a larger framework that will facilitate the development of supporting regulations on use of mobile phones among other ICT tools in schools. We want to fully adopt the use of ICT in the entire education system in a manner that is age appropriate, beneficial and safe for the learner, teacher and the school environment. Until such a time, the status-quo of not allowing use of personal mobile phones by learners in the school setting remains,” Mr Muyingo said. 

He added: “We know that ICT has come to stay and we cannot do away with it. We just need to prepare ourselves and absorb it in the education system to ensure that all learners get the best out of it.  Pray for our staff in the ministry who are working on this policy so that as soon as possible, we get this policy out and seek guidance that will be needed in the education system.”

Mr Muyingo said although ICT gadgets like phones can be used as tools to facilitate learning in and outside the classroom, the government is also mindful of the fact that phones can be a destructor in the learning environment, particularly during instruction time.

State Minister of Education for higher education John Chrysostom Muyingo addresses a press conference in Kampala on March 16, 2022. PHOTO/ FRANK BAGUMA

  “Learners can be destructed and interrupted by phones by engaging in text messaging, checking emails, social media but also search for information on Internet. In fact some countries that have attempted to allow learners to use phones in classrooms have observed that learners check their phones more than 10 times a day.  ICT gadgets have become a platform and a medium of propagating vices such as; cheating exams, cyber bullying and other anti-social behaviour,” Mr Muyingo said.

He admitted that the amount of time of destruction can have significant bearing on the learners’ ability to focus and accomplish the learning targets and ultimately lead to the learners’  frustration, and stress among other undesirable consequences.
On the issue of school visitations, the minister said visitations will not be allowed and that the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for safe reopening of schools still stand so as to contain the spread of coronavirus from the community into schools.

“Your children are in safe hands in schools where you took them. If there is a matter of urgency that requires you to visit your child or take her or him home, the school will contact the concerned parents. There is an increase in cases of flu and cough among school going children in many schools across the country. The Ministry of Health has assured our ministry that we should not be alarmed because the flu and cough are not due to Covid-19,” he said.
Mr Muyingo, however, said the ministries of Education and Health will today hold a joint press conference to make a pronouncement on the increasing cases of learners suffering from flu and cough.