What you need to know:
- The government has set stringent guidelines for the week-long exercise, including mandatory Covid test for participating head teachers. And cut-off grades for admission are expected to be tighter following better performance in the national exams.
The government has issued stringent guidelines for head teachers at the Senior One and Senior Five selection exercises set to run for a week from next Monday.
Unlike in the past, Education ministry officials say due to disruptions caused to the school calendar by Covid-19, this year’s Senior One and Senior Five selections will be conducted concurrently at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds, not Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) Grounds as previously was the case.
Addressing journalists yesterday at Uganda Media Centre in Kampala, Mr Benson Kule, the chairperson of the Selection Committee at the Ministry of Education, said each of the 2,000 secondary schools participating in the selection exercise should send only one representative instead of the usual two.
“Each head of school should conduct this exercise because it is his or her responsibility. They can only delegate their deputy or director of studies under unavoidable circumstances,” he said.
All the head teachers will have to undergo mandatory test for Covid at Kololo Secondary School in Kampala, but the government will pick the bills, according to Education ministry spokesman, Dr Denis Mugimba.
None of the school heads will be provided accommodation which would enable them to operate as a ‘bubble’ because they are each expected to depart once they pick their students of choice, officials said.
Those to be selected to join Senior One and Senior Five are pupils and students who took the 2020 Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) and Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examinations, respectively.
According to Mr Kule, selection will be done in shifts, with 400 schools scheduled for each day from Monday up to Friday.
The Ministry is today expected to release the schedule of the schools and reporting days for selection.
“To control numbers at the selection venue, 400 heads of schools will carry out the exercise on each day. They come, select their learners and leave to pace room for the next group the next day,” Mr Kule said.
News of the Senior One and Senior Five selection exercise in theory creates a relief for parents anxious about the delayed stay at home of their children as the government lurches from one to another school calendar amid recurring pandemic disruptions.
There has been long-standing uncertainty about when schools, first closed in March 2020, and shut again on June 18 following a staggered reopening, will resume classes to learners growing old at home.
The United Nations Children Emergency Fund (Unicef) in a new report says Uganda is the only country in the world that has closed schools longest, for 77 weeks, despite having relatively low rates of Covid infections and deaths.
Government has in the past months scheduled universities to resume full-throttle operations at the start of next month and other educational institutions early next year, but there is a catch: Only after the country’s 4.8 million priority and vulnerable populations the elderly, those under 50 but with comorbidities, teachers, non-teaching staff, health workers and security personnel --- are vaccinated against Covid.
However, despite less than half of the targeted groups receiving the jab over six months from March, when the nationwide inoculation programme was launched, President Museveni during the World Teachers Day last week amended increased the threshold jabbed population by 2.2 million to 8 million.
The additional numbers would require Uganda, long short on vaccines until recently, to import an additional 4.4 million doses of any double-shot Covid vaccine.
Officials at the Ministry of Education headed by Ms Janet Kataha, the President’s wife, have not said if his latest proclamation would alter the calendar for planned schools’ reopening.
Nonetheless, head teachers of the 2,000 schools participating in the selection exercise will converge in Kampala next week to pick choice students despite earlier reports that tens of mostly elite schools advertised and recruited new students online.
The first batch of 400 teachers slated to kick-start the selection exercise to be presided over by Minister Janet Kataha on Monday, will test for Covid-19 test first on Saturday, this weekend, and others on rolling basis.
The National Chairperson of Secondary Schools’ Head Teachers’ Association, Mr Martin Obore, yesterday told Daily Monitor by telephone that they are ready to comply with the set Covid-19 guidelines, but many colleagues may, in the absence of Capitation grant disbursements, fail to transport themselves.
About selection cut-off grade
The selection committee compromises experts from the Ministry of Education and Uganda National Examination Board and determines the cut-off grades of a school based on quota admission and the best out of total applicants.
Schools are expected to raise the cut-off grade for next week’s Senior One and Senior Five admission on the back of a better performance in both 2020 PLE and UCE examinations.