By Conan Businge and Josephine Maseruka
HEAD teachers have protested a decision by the Ministry of Education to close 400 schools as the third term opens today.
They vowed to defy the directive, arguing that the closure was wrongly timed, being the last term in the academic year. They also argued that they had not received formal communication from the ministry.
The education ministry closed 398 schools in the central region over various reasons ranging from lack of licences, unqualified head teachers to poor structures.
According to the ministryâ€™s spokesperson, Aggrey Kibenge, the schools do not meet the minimum operational, safety and security standards.
Most head teachers The New Vision talked to yesterday vowed to re-open their schools for the third term today.
The education minister, Namirembe Bitamazire, yesterday said: â€œNo closed school will be allowed to operate without being cleared. They must adhere to the directive. We warned them last term and they should not argue that we got them unawares.â€
The Senior Inspector of Schools at the education standards agency, Francis Ayume, said parents should not risk their childrenâ€™s life and education by taking them back to the closed schools.
According to the ministry, the schools will only be allowed to re-open after a written clearance from the director of education standards. â€œHe will advise the relevant chief administrative officers and town clerks of this decision.â€
Rose Sseninde, the Wakiso Woman MP and the proprietor of Kidde Day and Boarding Primary School (Wakiso), one of the affected, said the ministry should have communicated in time.
â€œIt is really unfair if schools were not informed in time. I appreciate the ministryâ€™s attempts to bring sanity in schools but there is need for fairness.â€
At Wampewo Primary School (Wakiso), 40 candidates will be affected out of the 100 pupils in the closed boarding section.
The headmistress, Marjorie Kalemeera, vowed to re-open today, arguing that she had no formal communication from the ministry.
Enock Kasirye, the deputy head teacher of Kasozi Standard Academy (Wakiso), said his school was inspected last term but the inspectors had not returned to see if their recommendations had been implemented.
â€œI put in place all that they needed. This is very unfair because parents have already paid the fees through banks. It is not good.â€
In Lyantonde, Star Light Primary School head teacher, Grace Okwiro, said he was surprised at the orders to close.
â€œThey did not give us enough time to improve my school. What should I do for the parents who will report tomorrow?â€ she asked.
The inspection that led to the closure of the schools was sparked off by a series of fire outbreaks in schools around the central region. A total of 20 fires were recorded in the in just three months, countrywide.
The worst outbreak was in April at Budo Junior School, where 20 pupils were burnt to ashes in a dormitory.
The head teacher of Kyamukonda Infant Nurseryâ€™s, Nabosi Katwesige, said: We have invested a lot of money in our school. Though my structures are still a bit poor, it doesnâ€™t make sense to close it instantly.â€
At Stemfore Primary School (Nakasongola), head teacher Harriet Nakacwa said she was shocked beyond words.
James Obua of Nakasongola Parents School said he would not heed to the directive. â€œWe shall open without hesitation. There is no letter written to me.â€
Lawrence Mupenzi of Jupiter High School (Nakasongola) said: â€œIt is not right. We talked to them and thought they had understood our arguments. This is terrible!â€
Tom Muhumuza of Step by Step P/S (Nakasongola) was equally furious. â€œThis is not right. The district is new and there are few schools. They are pressing us hard in this area. They are not sure of what they are doing.â€
However, the education ministryâ€™s publicist insisted: â€œWe are serious about this directive. No jokes. We are not using policies here, but the law.â€
â€œOur inspectors are to re-visit all the closed schools to ascertain whether they have followed the directive.â€