How the Covid lockdown crippled education sector

Thursday July 29 2021
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Students wash hands after break time at Kisubi Mapeera Senior Secondary School in Entebbe on October 12, 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

By Damali Mukhaye

Parents, learners and school administrators across the country remain in suspense over the reopening of schools.
Education ministry officials are equally stranded.
The ambiguity has left many stakeholders guessing on what next after the lockdown.
On June18, President Museveni closed all institutions of learning for the second time to curb the spread of the virus. The pupils in nursery, Primary One to Primary Three have spent a year-and- four months without stepping a foot in class.

Students in Primary One, Five and Six, have since 2020 not been promoted noext classes. The selection exercise for new Senior One intake is also pending lifting of the lockdown. Pupils who completed Primary Seven in 2020 are stuck at home and waiting for government to announce the next move tomorrow.
The tentative school calendar that was issued last month by the Ministry of Education had scheduled reopening of schools  for July 19, which dates elapsed without a reviewed calendar.

It is not only the school calendar that has been interrupted, but teachers in private schools have gone without pay since March 2020.
Some teachers have abandoned the profession and joined other businesses such as bricklaying, boda boda riding, security companies and other petty jobs. 
Others have publicly denounced the profession.

The general secretary of Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu), Mr Filbert Baguma, yesterday accused the government of neglecting teachers during the lockdown.  “Teachers discovered that they are better off doing other odd jobs. This will lead to shortage of teachers when we reopen and this will impact on learners,” Mr Baguma said.
The secretary general of the National Private Education Institutions Association Uganda, Mr Wako Muzinge, last month revealed that between 600 and 1,000 schools had accumulated loans amounting to Shs5 trillion since the first lockdown and risk being sold.

Teaching affected
After the lockdown was instituted, some schools, especially in urban centres, embraced online teaching.
Students with parents who could afford paying for online lessons have been conducting normal lessons on Zoom at the expense of those in rural areas without Internet and smartphones.

President Museveni during the first lockdown in 2020 directed that all households should be given a radio and TV to enable the government to deliver lessons to learners. The pledge remains a pipe dream.
The ministry, on June 14, started airing some lessons on radios but for only Primary Four  and Primary Five. Other classes were not catered for.

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Government distributed 5.3 million copies of study materials to schools for learners during the first lockdown. However, the 42 days of lockdown have elapsed without serious plans for e-learning and homeschooling.
Opposition leaders have criticised the government on several occasions for neglecting children of the poor as those of the rich study online. They say some of the international schools continued teaching under lockdown, perpetuating imbalances in the country.

“This government has failed to deliver lessons to all our children during the lockdown. As the children of the rich are busy studying online, those of the poor are languishing in villages without knowing what is happening,” the President of the Forum for Democratic Change, Mr Patrick Amuriat, said.
Unatu’s Baguma indicates that a few children from well-facilitated schools and families have been attending online lessons during the 42-day lockdown, while those with rich parents have been given special lessons from their homes.
Mr Baguma asked the ministry to come out and speak on plans they have for reopening of schools.

Vaccination of teachers 
President Museveni during his June 18 address said schools would only be reopened after all teachers have been vaccinated fully.
However, Mr Baguma revealed that the last time he checked, only 110,000 teachers out of 550,000 in both government and private schools had been immunised .
The newly appointed Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Ms Ketty Lamaro, yesterday said she would not comment on the new curriculum because she hadn’t been confirmed yet.

The State minister for Higher Education, Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo, asked Ugandans to be patient and insisted that the government will communicate the reopening and reporting dates when President Museveni lifts the lockdown.

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