Avert education crisis in Ebola-affected areas

Mr Henry Sunday Kosea, the head teacher of Madudu CoU Primary School in Mubende District, stands in an empty classroom on September 27, 2022. Learners were forced to keep away following an outbreak of Ebola in the district. PHOTO | DAN WANDERA

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Ebola outbreak
  • Our view: A thorough understanding of how the epidemic will affect the learners is needed in drawing up a clear response mechanism and solution.

Empty classrooms in several schools in Mubende and Kyegegwa districts following the outbreak of Ebola is threatening the education sector at the worst possible period of its calendar.

In some schools, turn up had dwindled to as low as five per cent with one of a population of 690 pupils receiving just 27 learners, a report by Daily Monitor shows. That some of the learners forced to keep away from schools will be sitting national examinations in less than months is worrying.

This crisis in the education sector in the districts where the Ebola outbreak has been confirmed comes even as the government has reassured of non-restriction of movement and public gatherings. One of the parents told Daily Monitor that she would only take her children back to school after the government has declared the area free of Ebola.

The Ebola epidemic is an emergency and every scope involved in handling the outbreak across all sectors must be treated under the emergency module it demands. With a mortality rate as high as 50 per cent, it means those who contract the disease have half just half chance of survival. This is probably why standard operation procedures that have been put in place such as washing of hands and avoiding contact with others might not be reassuring enough to the population.

Ebola is spread in the human population through human-to-human transmission. The virus can spread when people come into contact with infected blood or body fluids, including saliva, vomit, urine, sweat and blood. Risks are general on persons who have cared for or been in close contact – within a metre – with/of someone sick with Ebola.

Faced with all the trepidation, it is easy to understand why, for most parents, the forthcoming national examinations are secondary to life. The districts say they are engaged in sensitization and this is encouraging considering that community engagement is considered the best approach to managing the Ebola epidemic.

However, the government has to step in before this crisis bloats the future of learners in the affected districts. The Education ministry needs to urgently devise ways of tackling the situation beyond attempts to convince the parents to send the children back to classes. Stakeholders should look into how much time these learners, especially candidate classes, are possibly losing in a crucial third term like this.

A thorough understanding of how the epidemic will affect the learners is needed in drawing up a clear response mechanism and solution that will enable them to sit their examinations without feeling disadvantaged by what is happening. The Ministry of Education must treat this with the urgency it deserves.

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