Primary and secondary schools will not be allowed to operate both day and boarding sections at the same time, when they reopen for candidate classes, according to the new education ministry guidelines.
Instead, they will operate either as a boarding school or purely day, until the government feels it is safe to run both sections at a go.
This is part of the draft guidelines set for the re-opening of education institutions and implementation of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
It implies that those operating both sections have just 11 days to determine their preferable option.
For boarding institutions, after-class afternoon and evening programmes shall not involve team/group work and close contact sports or activities; and they shall be supervised by a dedicated team of staff.
Every dormitory shall have a resident tutor to supervise adherence to the SOPs. In addition, all institutions should not keep learners beyond the official school closing time.
On the morning and afternoon shifts, where this is applicable, the document says, the morning shift shall end at 12:30pm and the afternoon shift start at 2:00pm, to allow for disinfection of the affected surfaces before the next shift.
In addition, there will be an alternate-day attendance schedule, where different streams attend on alternate days as may be deemed appropriate, in a bid to ensure that numbers are manageable. All education institutions, including primary and secondary schools, will be required to employ a qualified health worker who will be dedicated to the institution, before they reopen.
Those without medical workers are required to establish a formal collaboration with a health facility within a radius of 5km for quick response and management of emerging issues.
This is part of the draft guidelines set for the re-opening of education institutions and implementation of the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
"A foot-operated hand washing facility shall be placed at a strategic point of access to each block (and floor where applicable) used by learners and staff.
"Safe temporary shelters, such as tents, may be used as classrooms. Open air spaces, such as tree shades, may be improvised as temporary venues for some classes," the document reads.
According to the guidelines, dated September 2020, which the New Vision has seen, the Government plans to open schools on Monday September 21, but only to candidates in Primary Seven, Senior Four and Senior Six.
If all goes according to plan, the candidates will return to school alongside finalists at higher institutions of learning.
In the draft document, it is indicated that education institutions shall resume at full capacity for all the learners when both the education and health ministries determine that it is safe.
International schools open
The general guidelines on safety measures for reopening of education institutions will also apply to international schools, which offer foreign curricula.
These, alongside special needs education schools, have been permitted to operate at full capacity with effect from September 21.
According to the draft guidelines, international schools have been allowed to operate at full capacity because they follow school calendars of their international affiliates and that their candidate classes do not correspond to the standard education cycles in Uganda.
For special needs schools, the guidelines indicate that they may open and operate for all classes, provided they have the capacity to adhere to the social distancing of at least two metres.
The schools welcomed the Government's plans to open education institutions.
The principal of Delhi Public School, Nathan Swami, said the re-opening of the schools is a great gesture to the Government's commitment to ensuring that there is continuity, even amidst a crisis.
"We have prepared for the opening, by ensuring that we set up what is required in the proposed SOPs," he said.
The spokesperson of Galaxy International School, Michael Albert Mukungu, said: "We will endeavour to follow the SOPs set by the Government and we hope for the best."
A cross section of primary and secondary school managers welcomed the proposal to have a qualified health worker at each academic institution, saying it will keep them in check.
However, most of them had reservations on the proposed ban on schools operating both day and boarding sections at the same time.
Lawrence Muwonge, the headteacher of Budo Senior Secondary School, said: "We need guidelines to safeguard our children. However, schools might face challenges to implement some."
A report by BESO Foundation, a local rural-based education non-governmental organisation, which was released over the weekend, also showed that about 53% of private schools may not reopen on account of being indebted and lacking resources to meet the SOPs. Muwonge noted that banning schools from operating both day and boarding sections at the same time will have implications on both parents and the schools.
The draft document also indicates that schools shall not be allowed to increase fees. "Education institutions shall engage their parents/ guardians to adopt flexible fees payment arrangements and allow payment in appropriate installments," the document states.
Ministry speaks out
In addition, the guidelines say academic institutions shall follow a revised national calendar to be issued by the education ministry permanent secretary once schools are reopened.
Attempts to get reactions from the education minister and the permanent secretary were futile, as their known numbers were switched off by press time.
Hajji Ismail Mulindwa, the chairperson of the COVID-19 taskforce at the ministry, said he was in a meeting. However, a source who spoke on anonymity grounds, said: "The ministry is also working on the revised school calendar. We request that you be patient. It will be issued by the right authorities at the right time."
Patrick Muinda, the spokesperson of the education ministry, yesterday told journalists that whatever has been proposed is pending the President's confirmation.
"We have not put out any official communication. Proposals were made by the education ministry taskforce, but the public should also know that the ministry is planning. We expect that the President will provide the final guidance on this," Muinda said.