The Ministry of Education and Sports has drawn a budget of more than Shs 78 trillion – a figure higher than the national budget, to implement Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SoPs) in schools.
According to the Commissioner for Education Planning and Policy Analysis Fredrick Matyama, it may be unlikely that the schools will open soon since the cost of re-opening schools is above what the government can afford.
Matyama was part of the Ministry’s team that accompanied the State Minister for Higher Education, Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo to Parliament’s committee on National economy, to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education and sports sector.
Uganda’s national budget for the current financial year is Shs 45.5 trillion which means that the Education ministry would consume it all and probably more than half of next financial year’s budget to make the schools safe for learners.
The schools have been closed for nearly four months now following a presidential directive in mid-March as government moved to contain the spread of the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The budgetary implications forced the MPs on the committee to advised government to declare 2020 a dead academic.
According to MPs, it is not feasible to re-open schools for the continuation of the academic year amidst the burden of SOPs that were put in place to tame the virus.
Committee chairperson Syda Bbumba (Nakaseke South) noted that the procedures would put an enormous strain on the finances of schools forcing most of them to close.
Bernard Atiku (Ayivu County) castigated the ministry for keeping the nation on tenterhooks over when the schools will re-open, telling the minister that it would be ideal to declare a dead year for schools considering that it is impossible to proceed under the current circumstances.
But the Ministry of Education appeared unwilling to heed to the MPs’ calls as the director of Basic and Secondary education, Ismael Mulindwa told committee that schools will re-open in phases starting with candidate classes as soon as the ministry observes how learning can be allowed to continue under the new SOPs.
However, Muyingo noted that the ministry was ready to declare schools open as long as the health ministry gives them a green light.
The MPs also called on the Ministry to shelve the program for the distribution of learning materials saying it has no impact.
This followed a brief to the committee by the minister who stated that there is a need for a national education curriculum policy that promotes a hybrid model combining institutional-based curriculum delivery with the online and home-based study.
He noted that it may be necessary to establish dedicated education radio and TV channels to carry education programmes sustainably.
However, the Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu was highly critical of the radio teaching program and the distribution of study materials, stating that such an approach cannot work in rural Uganda owing to differences in social and economic lifestyles between towns and villages.
Okumu was supported by Ruhinda North MP Thomas Tayebwa and Busongora North MP William Nzoghu who both noted that distribution of the study materials was a waste of time in the villages since there were hardly enough copies to go around and the lack of instructors and supervisors rendered the whole program useless.
Tayebwa told the committee that following a survey in his constituency and after talking to all the LC1 chairpersons he had observed that the study materials were having zero impact.
The MPs insisted that due to lack of radios and internet in most of the villages in the country, the education ministry was creating two societies where learners with means were benefiting at the expense of those without means.
They noted that under these circumstances it would be unfair to open schools to merely conduct examinations since most learners have been left out.
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