News of phased reopening of schools for semi-candidates effective March 1 is a welcome relief to both parents and students. This comes a full year after our children have sat idle at home. The no-school period had nearly 15 million learners and teachers sent away from schools, colleges and universities.
But news of staggered resumption of schooling comes with a new headache for parents, guardians and sponsors. While government, in attempts to stop the spread of Covid-19 and avoid blame, has phased the reopening, and sought aid, its announcement is dead silent on how to cushion families who may not easily raise the fees.
Foremost, parents are both worried and confused whether the fees they paid for First Term will be written off. They are right to inquire because our children did not learn as schools were closed on March 18, barely two weeks into the new term.
So will the parents be asked to pay anew and forget what was paid?
Just as we have argued before, these answers are needed because when schools were ordered closed by President Museveni on March 20, schools had only operated for one and half months. The First Term opened on February 3, and closed on March 20, meaning another one and half months were not used as the term was planned to close on May 1.
But these matters are not helped by news that schools are set to increase fees ahead of reopening for the semi-candidates (Daily Monitor, February 9). Already, before Covid-19, there were heavy groans by parents under the weight of exorbitant demands on students by schools.
Worse, the current demands for teachers’ salaries, and meeting standard operating procedures (SOPs) to stop the spread of Covid-19, are exerting more demands for running water to wash hands regularly, washing soap, sanitisers and facemasks. All these demands plus the traditional heavy lists of requirements, will heap more misery on our poor parents and both government and private schools.
This situation dictates that government should have pronounced both dates of reopening and clarify how to help our poor parents and schools cope. Parents have lost jobs, businesses, and earnings during Covid-19 lockdown.
This means many parents will be hard-pressed to pay fees and need to be provided with affordable and flexible terms of paying fees.
Similarly, the school owners and managers require stimulus package to soften the hardships that private schools have faced and will continue to encounter as schools reopen.
The Education ministry should take both responsibility and firm stance and engage board of governors and the parents, teachers association to resolve this matter before any more time is lost.