Schools reopen amid challenges

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Primary 7 pupils of Buganda Road Primary School in Kampala attend classes on January 11, 2022. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • As first term kick-starts in schools, a huge task lies ahead in terms of compliance to SOPs and adjusting to the learning setting.

On Monday, millions of learners across the country returned to classrooms for the first time after nearly two years of staying at home  due to measure introduced to curb spread of Covid-19.

Despite the excitement learners and teachers, many of whom had not met since the lockdown in March 2020,  showed, they face a host of challenges. 

Top among the challenges is observing Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) in school premises.

The country has registered a rise in Covid-19 cases, with the Health ministry blaming the surge on the highly infectious Omicron variant.

Adherence to SOPs
A survey by this publication established that many schools have put in place stringent measures, including subjecting learners to compulsory testing to protect them against the virus. This, however, contradicts guidelines earlier issued by the Ministry of Health.

At Kabarole Primary School, more than 70 students had turned up by around 10am, and a handwashing facility could be seen at the main gate.

Also, signposts with messages about Covid-19 were in the school compound.

At Halcyon High School, Soroti City,  the administration said they started conducting Covid-19 testing at their gate. 
“We have a disciplined cohort of students and teachers that is going to be our strength in fighting Covid-19,” Mr Paul Mark Onyait, head teacher of Halcyon High School, said.

At Teso College Aloet, handwashing facilities had also been provided for the students, according to Mr Julius Opaaso, the head teacher.

The director of Kabale Brainstorm High School, Mr Erasmus Habasa, said the entrance of every classroom has handwashing facilities. At the school main gate, body temperature is also recorded.

“Students without face masks are not being allowed in the school,” he said.

The situation was the same at Bundibugyo Demonstration Primary School where pupils without face masks were denied access to the school premises, according to the head teacher, Ms Zainabu Biira.

Mr Selestine Twinomugisha, the headmaster of St Kagwa Boarding and Primary School in Bushenyi District, said they conducted a series of training sessions for teachers before the reopening to enable them  properly  handle  learners amid  the Covid-19 challenges.

Several teachers who spoke to Daily Monitor expressed gratitude and optimism over the opening of schools, despite the tough conditions they are compelled to operate in because of Covid-19, financial constraints, amid other challenges.

Mr  Moses Debo, a teacher at Barakala Primary School in Yumbe District, said: “Our children have grown up without proper education and some have lost what they had already learnt before the lockdown was put in place. So, it’s going to be hard for us teachers to bring the learners to a level where they can understand everything we taught.” 

Mr Debo, who said he was engaged in farming during the lockdown, thanked the government for reopening the schools, adding that there should be no more lockdown.

Ms Vicencia Musubika, the head teacher of Kyomiya Primary School in Jinja North City, expressed concern that some of the  learners may not return to school.

Ms Agnes Komuhangi, a private school teacher in Kabale District, said the lockdown forced some of their colleagues to abandon the teaching profession.  

Teachers, students’ experience
Grace Chemutai, a Primary Six pupil at Kalas Girls’ Primary School in Amudat District, said staying at home for a long period almost shuttered her dreams of becoming a brain surgeon. 

“Education had disappeared completely from my mind and I have been engaging in a small business to support my family. Since schools have been reopened, I am now going to switch my mind back to learning,” she said.

Mr George Obura, the head teacher of Kalas Boys Primary School, also in Amudat, said staying at home has been a big challenge to both teachers and learners.

“Methodology of teaching is now forgotten because we have not been practicing,” he said.

Francis Olupot, a Senior Four student of Halcyon High School, said he would be in Senior Six if it were not for the lockdown.

“I have to endure, but it is a little disturbing, the time lost and the age factor,” he said, adding that he witnessed his colleagues get pregnant and give birth during the lockdown.

Ms Janipher Mamayi Musoba, a teacher at Nkuutu Memorial Secondary School, Bugweri District, described her two-year experience at home as “rough”.

“I have three sons aged between Six and 17 and their eating habits and behaviour had become terribly,” she said, adding: “They didn’t take me seriously and were too playful. They didn’t want to revise books, but only preferred to watch television.”

Nahia Nakandha, a Primary Seven pupil at Shilo Nile Star Day and Boarding Primary School in Njeru, Buikwe, said she learnt about business management during the lockdown.

“I was helping my parents to sell items at the family’s canteen at the Source of River Nile in Jinja City. I can still balance the business with studies if I get capital,” she said.

Ms Prossy Muyinda, the director of Victoria Junior School in Namutumba District, said she missed teaching pupils.
“I also missed parents who entrusted me with their children because I would always get new ideas,” she said.

Mr Muzamil Musembya, the director of Buwenge Blue Day and Boarding Primary School in Buwenge Town Council, said he had enough time to stay with his family.

“The two-year period (lockdown) enabled me to learn more about my children’s behaviour,” he said, adding that he also had time to engage in other projects.

Lynnette Happy, a student, said: “School life is better than life at home because you are always with friends and you feel comfortable. There is no disturbance at school, but you only concentrate on books. Some of the learners were overworked by parents at home.”

Mr Franco Yossa, a teacher at Nyarilo Primary School in Koboko District, said during the lockdown, he spent most of his time in the garden with his children.  

“I was able to get five sacks of groundnuts which will raise me Shs200,000 for my child to go to school,” he said.
 Mr Michael Wakyanya, the head teacher at North Road Primary School in Mbale City, said the turnout of pupils is encouraging.
 “Before the lockdown, we had more than 2,793 pupils, but now we are likely to have more learners,” he said.

*Compiled by Bill Oketch, Steven Ariong, Simon Peter Emwamu, Santo Ojok, Philip Wafula, Abubaker Kirunda, Denis Edema, Olivier Mukaaya, Fred Wambede, Robert Muhereza, Emmanuel Arineitwe, Robert Elema, Rashul Adidi, Scovin Iceta, Kesiime Brian Adam, Alex Ashaba, Milton Bandiho, Longino Muhindo & Malik Fahad

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