After closing down schools for a year and 8 months, President Museveni in his latest nation address announced that schools would be reopened in January 2022, together with the other sectors of the economy regardless of whether Ugandans are vaccinated or not.
However, there have been a number of unanswered questions regarding reopening dates, promotion of students, their mental health and that of teachers, the teacher’s willingness to return to their profession after some pursuing other ventures and the quality of students being released by higher institutions of learning.
On the Brunch Talk today, the two RX Radio Presenters Olive Najjuma and Sarah Apollo came together to discuss some of the controversies surrounding the reopening of schools.
Given that the sector has been hardly hit by Covid-19 where some schools were sold off and others taken up by the banks, Olive wondered whether the sector would recover or it needed to start from scratch.
There has also been talk of fee increment after the Minister of ICT warned school owners against hiking school fees. However, the two presenters agreed that fee increment is inevitable after such a long period of schools not being operational. “Hiking fees is unavoidable because schools have been badly hit, much as I am one of those people who’s been against the hiking of fees and asking for government intervention, on the other hand I’m of the view that they'll have to recover somehow and the only way to do that is to charge us more unfortunately,” Olive said.
The Minister of Education and Sports First Lady Janet Museveni was supposed to appear before Parliament on Wednesday on matters of schools reopening next year. However, she summoned the Members of Parliament to Kololo Independence grounds but the meeting was postponed.
This left the issues regarding schools reopening in a bounce and the concerned parties unaware of their next move. According to Olive, one of the headteachers she talked to was perplexed about the framework of reopening schools although they are to open in a month's time.
Concerning the mental health of teachers and learners, the presenters agreed that teachers and learners should be provided with psychosocial support including learners that got pregnant, a number which increased to 90,000 girls in the country by the second lockdown with a whopping 17,000 from Northern Uganda alone, according to the Education Officer, Nelson Ayo.
Pregnant teens and mothers have proposed that they should be allowed back to school and that the government should commit to campaigns that will encourage the young mothers to return to learning institutions. The same applies to children who have been exposed to child labour and may not be willing to return to schools.
Reacting to this, Sarah voiced; “I think this situation would have been salvaged if the government had not kept schools closed for this long. After the first lockdown, schools should have been kept operational given that after that time we had gotten a hold of the Covid-19 situation.” She added that the second lockdown on schools was unnecessary as it increasingly generated most of the negative impacts on the sector.
Brunch Talk is hosted by Olive Najjuma Monica every Saturday from Midday to 1pm on RX Radio.