With Uganda remaining as an island of school closures in the region, members of the diplomatic community in Uganda have been softly pushing the government to give special consideration to the reopening of international schools.
However, their calls have been politely but firmly rejected by the minister of education and sports, Janet Kataha Museveni.
During his visit to the State House on Friday afternoon, the Belgium Ambassador to Uganda Rudi Veestraeten raised the concern to the education authorities noting that many of his colleagues are worried about the continued closure of international schools which denies their children access to education.
Many diplomats and several staff in embassies educate their children in the said schools, not leaving out several Ugandans who have chosen to send their children in such schools.
Ambassador Veestraeten defended the said schools saying that they are able to observe standard operating procedures. He also added that reopening in January as proposed by the government means that learners in international schools will lose close to six months on the new academic year since their academic calendar runs from September.
When the government announced the partial reopening of schools last year, the education ministry gave a green light to both international schools and those for special needs learners to reopen at full capacity.
It was explained that the two categories of schools always have a limited number of students enrolled and authorities at the ministry of education believed that even with all learners back, they can ably observe the set standard operating procedures.
However, when the president was reducing restrictions on school closures, international schools were only allowed to reopen for candidates to enable them write their final examinations.
Apart from Veestraeten’s call, Janet Museveni added that many other diplomats have been reaching out to her with a similar concern. She however noted that she has found it difficult to allow their prayer.
The minister notes that despite being convinced that international schools are able to enforce standard operating procedures, reopening these schools yet the local ones are closed will paint a very bad picture and would be seen as a discrimination among learners of different communities and social classes.
Her observation comes at a point when the functionality of international schools has been generating a lot of public debate with people castigating the government for neglecting local learners yet learners in international schools are allowed to study. Some private operators had also rebranded and renamed their schools ‘international’ so that they could fully reopen.
To end all the doubts, Janet asserts that the principal of school reopening will be uniform to all schools in the country, sending apologies to the members of the diplomatic community.
She further advises that parents with learners in international schools, members of the diplomatic community inclusive, make use of online collaborative tools and will only be allowed to reopen to do examinations if the need arises.