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Uganda President Orders Task-force To Consider Opening Schools

President Museveni has directed the COVID-19 National Taskforce to discuss reopening of schools across the country in a phased manner starting with candidate classes.

The taskforce has also been directed to consider reopening of other sectors that are still closed such as worship places, bars, weekly markets, tourism and Entebbe International Airport.

According to the twitter handle of the ICT minister, Ms Judith Nabakooba, the taskforce will provide their report to the President this week.

“Museveni has instructed the task force to review the possibility of phased reopening of schools starting with candidates’ classes and clinical students. The taskforce has also been tasked to review the status of the remaining sector, including the entertainment industry such as bars, cinemas, nightclubs and sports events,” Ms Nabakoba said yesterday.

She said thereafter President Museveni will address the nation on the next step of action after the taskforce has presented to him a comprehensive report.

In June and July, President Museveni ordered the partial reopening of most businesses, including public transport that had been closed in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

However, some sectors, including education institutions, tourism and the airport remained closed until further notice.

In July, he said he would give his final decision in September on the reopening of schools and other businesses that had remained closed.

During the national prayers declared by President Museveni on Saturday, he said the taskforce would sit tomorrow to discuss the possibilities of reopening the schools and other remaining sectors.

“The national COVID-19 taskforce will meet on Tuesday to see what to do with the schools, churches and others. But people should be the custodian of their own health,” President Museveni said.

The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who heads the National COVID-19 Taskforce, confirmed the President’s directive and said they had already started work.

“The national taskforce will review, among other things, the issue of reopening schools. The taskforce is meeting tomorrow [today] and will make a recommendation to the President. There is work going on,” Dr Rugunda told Daily Monitor by telephone yesterday.

Budget

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Early this month, the Ministry of Education said they need Shs97.6b for reopening of schools and other educational institutions.

The proposal on the cost implication of schools reopening was developed by its department of Education Planning and Policy Analysis (EPPA) but is yet to be handed over to the government for consideration.

The document indicates that Shs97.6b would be required to implement the standard operating procedures (SOPs) in full to prepare schools for reopening.

The EPPA document also noted that the ministry would spend Shs1.67b in a scenario where the SOPs are implemented in full and schools reopen for only candidate classes while the rest of learners stay home.

The education COVID-19 taskforce headed by Mr Ismail Mulindwa, however, recommended that government should first reopen candidates’ classes since it is less costly.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Mulindwa declined to comment on the progress of the proposals.

In June, the Ministry of Health issued a list of SOPs to all schools across the country if they were to be reopened.

The SOPs require learners to be at least four metres apart in the classroom, all entry and access points in a school must have foot-operated hand-washing facilities and all schools must have qualified medical personnel to monitor and manage Covid-19 related cases.

REQUIREMENTS FOR REOPENING SCHOOLS

• Committee with seven members who write a report to the district taskforce daily.

•Each class to have a student leader, specifically for COVID-19.

•District education officer to lead the district taskforce.

•District health officer to train teachers, health workers and non-teaching staff on the control measures.

•Each school to recruit health assistant. The district taskforce to disinfect all institutions which were used as quarantine centres.

•Compulsory wearing of masks and handwashing.

•Full time trained personnel to do temperature screening.

•A well-calibrated working temperature gun at each entrance, exit from the dormitory.

•Isolation room to accommodate suspected cases.

•Learners with flu-like symptoms sent home.

•A foot-operated handwashing facility with water provided at all times.

•At least five-litre liquid soap available all time.

•Water waste disposed of in a constructed soak pit of 4 metres depth with hardcore stones.

•All learners keep a social distance of two metres.

•Assembly discouraged.

•Restrict community access.

•Supervise learners washing hands.

•Supervise break periods and scatter releasing students for breaks, lunch and going home to limit interaction.

•Four square metres per student per class, from one-metre square, are required to achieve the two-metre distance between learners. Only 10 and 15 students can be accommodated in a standard classroom for primary and secondary and tertiary institutions respectively.

•Additional streams and new infrastructure requirements or modification may be required to accommodate the other students.

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Written by PH

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