Reopening the education sector

Government plans to reopen schools in January 2022. 

What you need to know:

  • If the above is not implemented then we might end up crashing an entire generation and the effects will be felt 10 years to come.

At 80 weeks of school closure, Uganda is currently ranked first among countries that have totally closed educational institutions as a result of Covid-19. However, reopening is expected in January 2022 following the announcement by the President.

This means a new beginning for learners who have been home for close to two years. Many learners seem to be more focused on making money than returning to school, others are victims of domestic violence, defilement early pregnancies, rape and others have degenerated morals owing to idleness, poor environment and many others. The news to return to school in January 2022 has been received with a sigh of relief from parents, teachers and learners. 

However, there are challenges to be experienced by learners and teachers when they return to school. These range  from adapting to the school environment to forgetting the knowledge they had acquired since many parents are unable to support their learning from home.

Other stake holders have tried to put some measures in place to keep learners active such as newspaper pullouts of notes and exercises together with the marking guides which are being used as teaching aids .

Therefore, as the education sector prepares to open schools, there is need to start preparing learners and teachers to adjust to the school environment,

There is need for psycho social support so that these learners are observed and offered the necessary help. This will start with training teachers and giving them refresher courses, seminars by the Ministry of Education through the  school administration so that they can organise workshops and trainings to prepare teachers who will handle traumatised learners.

The teachers have been out of school setting for so long, some have opted for different ways of earning a living, therefore, they need to retool and be equipped with basic reading skills, handwriting and simplified teaching approaches that will make learning more fun to the learners than taking them through  the learning sprint that will frustrate them.

There is need for concerted effort of the different stakeholders, the schools, teachers , parents so that they can build resilient, focused and passionate learners  than just focusing on completing the syllabus or passing exams. Furthermore, the parents should also lower their expectations well knowing that these learners have been out of school for so long so as to avoid the effects that come with pressurising learners.

When it comes to infrastructure, so many schools’ properties including furniture, classroom doors and windows are dilapidated and some like doors , windows ,beds have been vandalised by the bad elements in the community  ,the pit-latrines have collapsed, the roofs have been blown away.

Therefore, there is need of a helping hand from the government , the school management committees , civil society, the PTA committees to resolve certain issues and rehabilitate these schools.

The District Education officers, the inspector of schools should have comprehensive reports about the state of schools in their districts, the teachers available for teaching so that structural plan is made to help these schools operational.

The government schools have been facilitated through the School Capitation Grant but this is a drop in the ocean; there is need for more funding to facilitate this upgrade.

The private schools are in a worse situation when it comes to this. Promises have been on and off but they need to be considered and given facilities on how to meet these cost of repairs, putting up new structures, hiring new support and teaching staff.

The Minister of Education together with Bank of Uganda have come up with a structural plan to service the loans obtained by these schools by extending the loan tenure, reduction of amounts of loan repayment instalments reduction of interest rate.

However more is desired like halting the repayment of these loan payments by schools until these institutions start operating again and generate income.  Private-owned schools require attention because private schools are more than double government-owned schools.

There has been introduction of ODEL (Online Distance E-learning) which has been embraced in primary, secondary and mostly in higher institutions of learning. However, the data charges are posing the biggest challenge to this initiative and the Ministry of Education together with the Ministry of ICT should engage the different telecommunication companies to address the high cost of internet since the 12 percent tax on internet data has exorbitantly increased the cost of online learning.

More so these online gadgets should be tax exempted so that online learning is supported and its benefits be registered.
With all the above in place to support fully opening of schools, the vaccination campaign should continue so that teachers and learners who are of age are fully vaccinated.

If the above is not implemented then we might end up crashing an entire generation and the effects will be felt 10 years to come.

 Mary Salome Namirembe, Educationist 
 

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