Tuesday,October 27,2020 17:24 PM

MPs skeptical about reopening of schools

By Moses Mulondo

Added 25th September 2020 07:19 AM

MPs skeptical about reopening of schools

Muyingo (left) and Kakooza appearing before the education committee of Parliament on Tuesday.


The education ministry team, led by the minister in charge of higher education,  JC Muyingo, had difficulty answering many questions MPs asked about the intricacies surrounding the planned re-opening of schools.

Muyingo and his team, which included the permanent secretary, Alex Kakooza and the director for basic and secondary education, Ismail Mulindwa, were appearing before Parliament's education committee, to give a brief on the plans for the re-opening of education institutions.

On Sunday, President Yoweri Museveni announced that government had allowed schools to reopen on October 15, for candidate classes of P7, S4, S6, as well as finalists in tertiary institutions and universities.

According to the statement read by Mulindwa Tuesday, the education ministry has prepared reading materials, which will help students who are not in candidate classes to continue learning from home.

He said the ministry got a grant of $14.7m (about sh50b) from the Global Partnership for Education to support the sector's COVID-19 response interventions, especially the printing of reading materials for home learning.

Mulindwa said the ministry still has a funding gap of sh158b, which government has promised would provide to facilitate home learning using both electronic means and printed materials.

The education ministry officials said they had been assured by the finance ministry that money for buying  nine million radio sets for distributing to learners, is available.

The MPs were further informed that 522 audio and 390 video lessons for primary and secondary schools have been recorded and editing them for broadcasting is nearing completion.

However, the MPs were skeptical about some of the plans that the team presented.

The committee chairperson, Jacob Opolot, wondered how soon the radios would be delivered since they would have to go through procurement and importing, as well as assembling, yet government had struggled to distribute masks.

Jonam County MP Emmanuel Ongiertho said: "From the statement you have presented, it implies that schools will reopen only for finalists and the rest of the students will be learning from homes and that the promotion of those learning from home will depend on how effective home learning will have been. I doubt home learning will work. And who will be assessing its effectiveness?"

Kween Woman MP Lydia Chekwel said there is almost nothing that has happened in her area as far as learning from homes is concerned.

Kalungu West MP Joseph Ssewungu said the presentation indicated that stakeholders had not been consulted to determine plans for the reopening of schools.

Ssewungu argued that implementing the standard operating procedures for schools, especially the private ones, would not be possible, since it would require a lot of money. The MPs raised concern that whereas the government is planning to spend billions of money to avail government schools with facilities, such as temperature guns, sanitisers, and masks, there are no plans to avail private schools with similar facilities, which would make many of them practically unable to operate.

But Muyingo said they had been briefed that the finance ministry does not have money to cater for private schools.

The MPs were concerned that in all the home learning plans, institutions of higher learning had been left out.

Kakooza argued that they are operating in an abnormal situation, with so many challenges and with limited resources at their disposal. He added that the power to determine the school calendar, lies in the education ministry

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