AS schools swung their gates open a few days ago, thousands of teachers and parents did not know if their own children were to study this term. While pupils and students were doing their shopping and packing their clothes and books, for the last term in this academic year, here came the news. Four h
That was a real shock. Mixed feelings of disappointment, worry and joyâ€“ thumbs up for the ministry; swept through the central region.
â€œIt is unacceptable. I have just paid my sonâ€™s school fees. He is in a candidate class! What does the government mean?â€ Julia Namutebi, a parent in Ssempera Memorial P/S in Lyantonde, in central Uganda lamented.
The governmentâ€™s announcement of 398 school closures took several other parents and children by surprise.
Officials from the education ministry say these schools lacked licenses, eligible teaching staff, and safe structures.
â€œThe closed schools infringed on the law of minimum operational, safety and security standards,â€ Aggrey Kibenge, the education ministryâ€™s publicist said.
Ninety percent of the closed schools do not have operational licences. The majority are private schools. However, there are other schools that did not meet the minimum standards.
These schools did not have proper classroom and dormitory structures, qualified teachers and head teachers, and most of them were not licensed.
In some of the schools sanitation conditions were abhorrent. At Trusted Kids primary school, the pupils were sharing one latrine with teachers! At some other schools, the latrines were full to the brim.
During inspections in June and July, it was discovered that several schools especially in Mukono and Kampala were running unregistered boarding facilities.
Patrick Balyomugera, a senior inspector said most school heads were claiming to have sent application forms for running boarding sections, to the district education officers, a year ago.
The ministryâ€™s guidelines require the heads of the schools to register the boarding sections. The facilities are supposed to be inspected and a certificate awarded, before being used.
At Buliisa Pentecostal School, in Mubende,inspectors found girls sharing one latrine with boys. The girlsâ€™ dormitory had no shutter and secondary school boys were sleeping in the primary pupilsâ€™ dormitory. The same school also had only three teachers, according to inspectors.
The inspections also discovered that some UPE schools were running boarding sections.
Francis Atima, a senior inspector says they found some boys with condoms, in a mixed sex class. â€œThe teachers were not bothered by the boysâ€™ conduct.â€
Atima also found a school where boys and girls were sharing dormitories and latrines. With immediate effect, she ordered for the closure of the school.
The education ministry also found congested dormitories with burglar-proofed windows and with no fire extinguishers.
According to the notice, these schools will only be allowed to re-open, with 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€
But all this, was sparked off by a series of fire outbreaks in schools around the central region. A total of 20 school fires were reported recorded in the in a space of just three months, countrywide.
The fires first surfaced in April at Budo Junior School; where 20 pupils were killed in a dormitory that was razed down.
The closure of schools is part of the massive inspections that were mounted in the central region after the fires.
Critics argue that the closures were ill-timed since this is the final examination term of the year but the director of education standards Moses Otyiek says that, schools that were closed did not have centres. For those with UNEB centres, he said, â€œthe ministry will intervene and make provisions for such affected children.â€
For schools that defy the directive Otiek promises permanent closure. If the headteacher is a registered government teacher; their registration will be be cancelled. Proprietors of such schools will also be tried in the courts of law.
But several headteachers have rejected the directive to close their schools. claiming that they had no official closure notices.
However, Atima says that parents should not risk their childrenâ€™s lives and education standards in the closed schools. â€œThey (schools) have to get cleared first.â€
This time, it seems the education ministry is meaning business. Kibenge says that the ministry has received sh3.5bn for the task. Of this, sh2.5bn has been sent to the districts headquarters to implement inspections.
The Ministry plans to close more schools that do not meet the required minimum standards. Are we witnessing a clean up of Ugandaâ€™s education system right in our generation?
Only time will tell.
Panic as govt closes school over facilities