Schools owners and administrators have warned that the Covid-19 preventive measures set by the government have proved difficult to implement.
This comes as schools prepare to receive semi-candidate classes on on Monday after a year of closure.
A Daily Monitor survey of some school in Kampala and across the country reveals that a number of schools are unable to implement the Ministry of Health recommended Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), especially the two-metre social distancing in classrooms and dormitories.
Sources, who declined to be named, said during their meetings, the head teachers agreed to continue operating normally once they are reopened because government’s demands required recruiting more teachers and constructing more buildings which require a lot of money.
One head-teacher of a school in Kampala, said they never would have reopened had they maintained the social distancing rule.
“Is the two-meter distancing observed in the buses or taxis? Why should government think schools will find the two meters now? These children mix everyday with parents, who use buses, go to markets and arcades. They have not fallen sick,” the source said.
Another head teacher said her Primary Seven class of 119 pupils was occupying two classrooms before Covid-19 but with the two-meter distance recommendation, they were forced to add seven more classrooms which meant that she needed more staff.
“I was forced to recall the Primary Six teachers to join the four who were teaching Primary Seven. We never increased fees but I had to pay transport and housing allowances for the teachers. I was stretched until I reduced the distance to 1.5 meters,” the head teacher said.
In Ntugamo District, Ntungamo High School head-teacher Wilson Byamukama said he is concerned that teaching in shifts, as suggested, will be costly for both schools and parents.
“Nobody would not want these SOPs to stay, but given the circumstances under which schools in Uganda operate, both government and private, a few SOPs are likely to fail,” Mr Silver Nuwagaba, an officer at Promoting Equality in African Schools, said.
While Mr Patrick Okwir, the head-teacher of Kangai Secondary School in Dokolo District, said they are failing to procure additional hand-washing facilities and sanitizers due to financial constraints.
“Those elements under SOPs are expensive and it requires a lot of money, which is not there because even whatever government sends is quite meager,” he said.
However, in Tororo District, the education officer, Mr. Albert Odoi, has warned that those who fail to comply with the standards will not be allowed to operate.
At Parental Care Nursery and Primary School in Bushenyi District, Mr Perez Basiime, the head teacher, said they asked parents to pack raw ginger, lemon, and garlic for the children.
“The school will pound these herbs and make a mixture, which pupils will take in the morning and evening for the first three weeks at an interval of three days.” Mr. Basiime said.
He said he will be hiring tents which will be used as classrooms so that classrooms are turned into dormitories.
Kisoro Vision Secondary School director Dan Munyambabazi asked government for a grant for private schools to support them in putting up some SOPs.
Some sources from the Ministry of Education, who requested not to be named, said they proposed to Ministry of Health to relax the two-metre social distancing to at least one-metre to enable institutions cope with the high enrollment with limited infrastructure .
However, Ministry of Health in the interview with journalists on Wednesday rejected the proposal saying they cannot bend the rules and will go with the scientific facts.
During a press conference at State House Entebbe yesterday, the Minister of Education, Ms. Janet Museveni, appealed to schools to adhere to new guidelines on SOPs released the institution.
However, Mr. Hassadu Kirabira, the secretary of the National Private Educational Institutions Association, in a separate interview yesterday said they had not received the new school guidelines.
“SOPs have budgetary implications on schools. We hear that they have asked to reinforce the existing SOPs. But we lack information,” Mr. Kirabira said.
Mr. Alex Kakooza, the Ministry of Education permanent secretary, also in a separate interview, however, revealed that the guidelines were not ready saying: “We do not do them alone. We do them with other sectors.”
He rejected the suggestion to push the reopening from March 1 to another date.
It is not clear what guidelines the inspectors are using to deny institutions certificate of compliance for reopening on Monday after they were sent to the field early this month to assess the schools’ readiness.