Parents withdraw pupils from schools over Ebola

Mr Henry Sunday Kosea, the head teacher of  Madudu CoU Primary School in Mubende District, stands in an empty classroom on September 27, 2022. PHOTO | DAN WANDERA

As the country struggles to contain the spread of the Ebola Sudan strain that has partly paralysed business, among other activities, parents and school authorities in Mubende and Kyegegwa districts are left in dilemma.

The case of parents withdrawing children from school despite the government assurance for non-restriction on movement and public gatherings in areas that have registered positive cases of Ebola and the limited budgets to cope with the new standard operating procedures (SOPs) guidelines is at the centre of play.

In Mubende, where several primary schools at Madudu and Kiruuma sub-counties have registered less than 5 percent pupil turn up, teachers have been left with empty classes while a section of parents claim the learning environment is unsafe until the epidemic is brought under control.

Mr Henry Sunday Kosea, the head teacher of Madudu CoU Primary School, said the empty classes for a school with a total enrollment of 692 pupils is a big worry at a time when pupils and teachers are planning for Primary Leaving Examinations and other promotional exams.

“Today (yesterday), we received only 27 pupils and had none in Primary Six. The fact that our pupils come from villages that have registered deaths as a result of the Ebola disease partly explains the situation,” Mr Kosea said.

He said the conditions have brought back the Covid-19 lockdown memories that left the schools closed for about two years.

At St Kizito Madudu R/C Primary School in Madudu, only 270 out of the 640 pupils were in school on April 27. The number kept reducing until Monday when the district Ebola taskforce sensitised the parents, Mr Maxim Nkwesiga, the head teacher, said yesterday.

“We are struggling to send messages of hope to our parents that are already panicking and fear for the safety of their children. They have decided to temporarily withdraw their children from school,” he said.

In Kyegegwa, Bugongo PS  in Bugongo Town Council has registered less than 50 pupils out of a population of 1,222 since Wednesday last week when the Ebola outbreak was declared in the district.

“On Monday, only 32 pupils turned up while 40 showed up on Tuesday (yesterday). The parents have been advising me to close the school after one of the pupils got admitted to Mubende Hospital over suspected Ebola disease,” Mr Enock Birungi, the head teacher, said.

Mr Philip Baguma, the town council chairperson, said it had been agreed that some children from Kigarama ward in Bugongo, where the case of Ebola had been reported, should not go back to school for two weeks as health officials monitor the situation.

Ms Annet Kasiime, a parent at Bugongo PS, told Daily Monitor on Monday that her two children would only report back when the government declares the area Ebola-free.

At Joy Primary School in Kabarungi Village, Kyegegwa, the director, Mr William Musamba, said parents advised him to close the institution because of the outbreak.

Other education institutions with lower turn up in the district include Golden and Visionary primary schools.

Mr Hussein Mwesige, the district education officer and a member of the Ebola taskforce, however, said they did not back the decision but it was taken by owners of private schools.

“The government has not closed any schools. The advice is for schools to put in place standard operating procedures but not close the facilities,” he said.

Mr Asaph Kaabunga, the DEO Mubende, said the district Ebola taskforce in collaboration with the local leaders are conducting sensitisation meetings targeting parents and residents.

Ebola SOPs

Residents are advised to wash hands with soap, stay away from congested areas, and sanitise. The public is also advised to use facemasks, among other safety guidelines.

The symptoms

Bleeding from body openings, difficulty in breathing, severe headache, chest pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, high body temperature, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and sore throat.

By Dan Wandera, Alex Ashaba & Barbra Nalweyiso

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