Desist from contravening COVID19 SOPs – Education Ministry Warns Institutions

Alex Kakooza

The Ministry of Education and Sports has warned schools to desist from contravening the COVID19 Standard Operating Procedures as non-candidate learners return after a year.

The Permanent Secretary Alex Kakooza told journalists in Kampala that some schools had illegally converted into boarding schools and vice versa, risking the lives of students.

All primary pupils and secondary school students reported to school, but in a staggered manner from March 1 to mid-June, according to a leaked draft government master plan.

Government closed all educational institutions in the country over Covid-19 pandemic in March, last year.

Plans since then to conduct virtual education remained wet in the wings after the government failed to deliver radio and television sets it promised to neighbourhoods across the country.

To fill the learning gap amid uncertainty about schools’ re-opening, urban and international schools turned to use largely Zoom and other digital platforms to teach children of parents with means to pay, crowding out the poor.

In an address on February 4, the President announced that semi-candidate classes – Primary Seven pupils, Senior Three and Senior Five students – would resume studies on March 1.

The students in this bracket, he said, number 1.7 million who, if added to the 1.3 million candidates who resumed class on January 18, this year, would total 3 million, meaning there will be five times more facilities for them to use.

Plan for other classes
Primary Four and Five pupils will constitute the second batch that is expected to return to school around April 12, after the current candidate classes check out for vacation, and study for 10 weeks until roughly mid-June.

In addition, the government plans that Senior One students will get back to school around April 19 and study for 14 weeks to about July 22.
They will be followed by Senior Two students who report to class on or around June 5, coinciding with the departure of the semi-candidates. They will study for slightly over two months, ending around mid-August.

Meanwhile, Primary 1-3 pupils will be the last batch to resume classes and are expected to return to school around June 18 and study for only eight weeks, closing the term nearly at the same time as Senior Two students.

Staggering of the schedule is intended to prevent crowding, which could accelerate spread of Covid-19, according to senior Ministry of Education officials.

This newspaper understands that universities and tertiary institutions have been given some leg room to schedule their re-opening, which the former likely to re-open on March 1. The planned schooling period of 8 to 14 weeks compares with the previous 3-month term, although two months would be too short to exhaust a syllabus.

Education ministry technocrats shared the tentative schools’ reopening schedule  with Minister Janet yesterday after the ministry’s top management agreed to its contents.

“We have sent the schedule to the Minister (Janet) who was in Cabinet today (yesterday),” Mr Alex Kakooza, ministry of Education permanent secretary, said, promising to provide the details to this newspaper today or until the political leadership approves the plan.

In response to question whether the students will be continuing with last year’s unfinished term/work or start a new one for 2021, Mr Kakooza, said: “We are not looking at a term, but content coverage. Abnormal situations call for abnormal responses. What we are looking at is what we are supposed to [have covered] when we stopped schools last year.”

He added: “As a ministry we are not focusing on the (regular) term I, II and III (schedules). We have come up with materials to cover the entire [year]. We have come up with a time recovery strategy that will spill over into next year.”

Tentative school reopening programme

The plans to reopen schools emerged amid reports countrywide that schools are hiking tuition fees three weeks to the date semi-candidates are  expected back in class.

  • Jan 18 – Mar 31: P.7 candidates break off on March 31  after their Primary Leaving Exams.
  • Mar 1 – Jun 7 14 weeks: P.6, S.3, and S.5 will report back to school on March 1, and break off on June 7.
  • Jan 18 – April 6: S.4 and S.6 students will end their final term with exams by April 6.
  • April 12 – Jun 18 (10 weeks): P.4 and P.5 pupils will resume classes on April 12 and break off on June 18.
  • April 19 – Jul 22 (14 weeks): S.1 students will report for classes on April 19 and break off on July 22.
  • Jun 18 – Aug 13 (10 weeks): S.2 students will report on June 5 and break off on August 13.
  • Jun 21 – Aug 13 (8 weeks): P.1, P.2 and P.3 pupils will report on June 21 and break off on August 13, after eight weeks.

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