Ugandan gov’t advised to scale up reopening of schools

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First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Government of Uganda has been advised to work towards ensuring the full-scale reopening of all educational institutions.    

In October 2020 schools reopened, but only for candidate classes, after more than six months of inactivity following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the Ministry of Education Sector review, Education Development partners led by the Deputy Belgium Ambassador to Uganda Koen Van Acoleyen asked the ministry to look at the available good practices and innovation from across the world to have a safe full reopening of schools. 

Currently, 14 million learners have not been to school for more than eight months. Out of them, the majority have had no access to any kind of materials to continue learning.

The State Minister for Higher Education Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo notes that the government is well aware of the challenges associated with the delayed reopening but still there is a need to be cautious before rushing to reopen.

Muyingo notes that the government is now waiting for detailed inspection reports to inform their next decision. He, however, adds that besides the inspection reports they will also need a green light from the health experts.

The department of education standards in the ministry is moving in schools inspecting the implementation of COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures [SOPs].

Muyingo further says that even if the health and inspection reports recommend reopening, there is another hurdle of funding as government needs to mobilize resources to have a smooth reopening.  

“The issue of reopening also has an aspect of financing. Don’t forget that factor but as a government, we are working around the clock to see that this issue is handled. of course sooner or later school will be reopened,” said Muyingo.

Recently, the Ministry of Education presented a budget of more than 78 trillion Shillings– a figure higher than the national budget, to facilitate their COVID-19 response and recovery plans.   

While presenting before the Parliament’s Committee on National Economy, the Commissioner for Education Planning and Policy Analysis Fredrick Matyama, observed that without funding it could be difficult for schools to open soon since the cost of re-opening schools is above what the government can afford.      

The education development partners also noted that COVID-19 might be a wake-up call for the government to increase the budget allocation to the education sector.   

Statistics indicate that the education sector continues to suffer from lack of financing as its budget allocation has been decreasing for the sixth consecutive year to reach the ‘critically low level of 10 per cent this year, instead of the 20 per cent Uganda committed to at various occasions, including the Incheon Declaration in 2015.

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Because of the low financing, Uganda cannot afford to grant access to all the learners to the education system, despite Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education with the few learners who can access school performs very poorly, with bad results in literacy and numeracy among others.

Acoleyen says that with low financing and the missed international commitments, Uganda is no longer on track for accessing several financing under the current procedures.

He, however, notes that they in discussion with the American government and hope to find a positive outcome in the coming months, to make sure the Ugandan children don’t suffer the consequences.