The Minister for Education and Sports, Janet Kataha Museveni has clarified that the ministry will focus on dealing with covid-19 cases when they emerge instead of the mass testing for over 1.2 million children before they report back to school on October 15.
In an interview on Wednesday aired by Vision Group, Janet Museveni said it would not be feasible to mass test until the Ministry of Health has the capacity to continuously test everyone after every fortnight.
“The Ministry of Health (MOH) has informed us that Uganda like most other countries does not have the capacity to mass test for COVID-19. As you are aware, Uganda is currently conducting only 2,500 tests daily, and it is therefore not feasible to test 1.2 million children before they report back to school,” she said.
The Minister added that, “Even if they did mass test, it would not be meaningful. Ideally, the test should be done every two weeks, so even if they tested this once, it does not mean the children will remain negative all the time. If we cannot maintain the testing while they are at school, the one test would not be meaningful. ”
She then outlined how cases would be handled when they are detected, saying the biggest responsibility would be with the District Covid-19 task forces.
“We have task forces across the country and in our guidelines developed together with the Ministry of Health, the schools will work with district task forces to manage daily cases – identify, isolate, and take over case management. The teams will assess the situation, and work with the school management on a decision and best way to manage the situation,” she said.
The Minister of Education also confirmed there would be no ‘dead year’, and that students are returning to term two, with term three spilling into next year.
With a new schools calendar out this week, the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) is also set for exams, with the the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) and Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) set for March, and the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UCE) set for April, 2021.
“We are not considering the possibility of a dead year for the rest of the learners. It will clog the system. We think that they will still come from home, and the work they have done from home, will be sufficient for an assessment,” she said.
She stressed that Ministry guidelines are schools should either be a day, or boarding. No school will be both, and students from neighboring countries will only be allowed to return at a later stage.
“They would have to be put into quarantine before they can be allowed to go to school. For now, we are advising the borders should not allow students to be come in.”
Janet Museveni revealed that an assessment will be made after a month to determine how well the institutions are implementing the SOPS to make a decision on when the children in the continuing classes can resume.
She said schools will work with a revised calendar that will be shared this week. Second term will run from October 15 to December while Term 3 will run from January 2021 to April 2021.
She also stressed that the enhanced home schooling scheme that the Education Ministry is pushing on radio, TV and through the newspapers should enable learners in the other classes to be assessed and move to the next class.
Schools, through their management and board of governors are expected to negotiate with parents on how to best handle fees for the second term, taking into account term one was not completed, yet many had paid, while the institutions continued incurring costs during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Minister insisted there should be no extra costs, even if government schools took on extra children from private schools that will not be able to reopen, saying numbers would be low since it is only finalists.
“We are confident that government supported schools can meat the costs using the capitation grant, while private schools from the fees. It is not necessary to build new infrastructure now, since we are taking in few students…..so, we think the major drivers for additional costs would only be hand washing and disinfection facilities, temperature monitoring tools and face masks,” she said.
The Executive Secretary of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) Dan Odongo said they are waiting for the ministry to come out with the revised school calendar.
“The exam is a process that takes place within the school calendar. UNEB has proposed that if schools open on October 15, immediately we will start the process of registration of candidates. We are finalizing the software that is needed, but the time they go back to school, they will be able to start registering,” he said.
“We expect it will take us about 5 weeks, by mid November the registration process will be complete. Then the internal activities, including printing the exam papers.”
UNEB plans to administer the Uganda Certificate of Education for a month from March 1.
It will be followed by the Primary Leaving Education (PLE) March 30th and 31 March. The UACE examinations will start after Easter on April 12th, to end of the school calendar at end of April.