The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has okayed reopening of schools teaching health-related courses next week. This means NCHE has brought forward the date of reopening from August 30 as had earlier been planned.
The NCHE executive director, Prof Mary Okwakol, in her August 5 letter said the inter-ministerial meeting held on August 4 agreed to reopen medical schools for final year students on Friday.
Prof Okwakol said the rest of the learners will join in a staggered manner.
“Institutions must maintain a maximum of 33 per cent of learners in each institution and at any one time. The institutions are encouraged to continue training the preclinical classes remotely , using open , distance and electronic learning and students come for practicum when conditions permits,” Prof Okwakol said.
The decision to reopen medical schools follows a directive by President Museveni, who had asked the Ministry of Education, Health and NCHE to meet and consider safe reopening of the medical schools.
President Museveni last week said the exception for medical schools was in view of fact that the schools are a source of specialised human resource for the health sector.
Prof Okwakol said the reopening will also provide an opportunity to train the next generation of epidemic control personnel during this period of Covid-19 pandemic.
Govt sets condition
She said only institutions teaching medicine and surgery, dental surgery, pharmacy, paramedical, nursing/midwifery, radiology and laboratory technology will be allowed to reopen.
The medical students are also expected to get vaccinated before reporting to school.
“Medical students are considered part and parcel of the earlier inaugural programme for vaccination of health workers. Students are, therefore, advised to get vaccinated as vaccines become available,” Prof Okwakol said.
The teaching staffs are already slated for vaccination.
“Students and staff who will not have accessed vaccines by the time of re-opening will be vaccinated on arrival at schools. Government has made arrangements to carry out vaccination at the schools,” Prof Okwakol said.
Government has asked the institutions to comply with the SOPs for control and prevention of Covid-19 in both hostels and living environment, means of transport or movement to medical facilities and dining halls.
The returning students are required to acquire own masks.
The institutions have also been advised to learn from the previous experience of reopening and implement the guidelines provided earlier to avoid reoccurrence of the rampant transmission that happened in some schools, Prof Okwakol said.
When government closed schools for the second time on June 18, most schools and universities had registered many cases of Covid-19 among students and teachers.
Unlike Kyambogo University that came out and openly reported that more than 50 students and staff had tested positive for the disease, most schools hid their cases, with parents getting to know about the status of their children after the closure of schools.
Several government officials, including those in the Ministry of Education, contracted the virus from their children who had returned from school. This is part of the reasons the ministry is yet to reopen schools for all learners.
Prof Okwakol said testing will be premised on symptoms and largely based on rapid antigen testing to be able to isolate those who are positive.
Officials from the Ministry of Education, Health and NCHE had deferred the reopening of medical schools to a later date after they failed to conclude on the dates of reopening during the Wednesday meeting that took place at State House.
Sources said the officials have agreed to meet again at a later date after inspecting the institutions before reopening, but the government has bowed to pressure and decided to reopen the medical schools.
Prof Okwakol said inspection of institutions will take place after reopening.
Source: Daily Monitor