The Ministry of Education and Sports is moving to implement a phased reopening of educational institutions across the country with a revised academic year schedule which may see learners in primary and secondary schools reporting for the second term this month.
President Yoweri Museveni declared a closure of all education institutions on March 18, as a precautionary measure to control the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Over 15 million learners enrolled in schools at different education levels have been at home since the closedown. By closure time, students were still in their first term with those in senior one and five barely a month at school.
Around May, the government proposed to open up for candidate classes, however, the plan had not materialized to date with some voices asking the government to declare 2020 a dead year for education.
Sources at the Education Ministry have intimated to this reporter that the academic year clock will be rewound to the second term.
Around this time of the year, in the normal academic year schedule, students would be reporting for the third term with candidates preparing for an examination that would begin around October.
But, there has been a question of how learners would compensate second term work given the fact that the government had failed to up a feasible continuous learning program during the lockdown.
“Looking at the timeline it was nearly impossible for students to completely cover the syllabus and write their exams this year. It has been agreed upon that as students go back, the clock should be rewound to the second term,” a source said.
According to a letter recently written by the Minister of Education Janet Kataha Museveni to her finance counterpart seeking the release of capitation grants to schools, the candidate classes are bound to report for the second term on September 20, this year.
However, sources add that after a few weeks, more classes will also report to school.
“It will be done in phases. Two or three weeks after candidates have reported, the ministry will assess the situation and if everything is fine, a second lot will be added, another one will also follow up. In the end, all students will be at school,” the source adds.
Tentatively, the Ministry plans that the second term will end around mid-December and in late January or early February the third term will kick off and candidates are then expected to write their final exams around March or April.
Going forward, the academic calendar will be slowly harmonized to fit into the calendar year.
“When schools reopen, the co-cirlicular activities will be temporarily suspended so that teachers concentrate on reintagrating learners into the school system, carry out remedial work and ensure that the syllabus is covered. There will be not examinations at the end of second term,” the source said, adding that the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) will guide on the plans for this year’s examinations for candidate classes.
Usually, the registration for National Examinations at primary, Ordinary and Advanced levels starts in April ending in May with an extra month provided for late comers. After registration there are fours to five months before learners eventually write their examinations.
Registration normally concide with candidates’ application for placements in schools and institutions where they wish to be admitted for the next level of education. However, their entire process had been frozen.
Interviewed, Dan Odongo, the UNEB executive secretary said, the examinations body is waiting for official communication on the re-opening of schools so that they lay out their plan.
President Museveni is expected to announce the re-opening of educational institutions soon but with a requirement of a strict adherence to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to check the spread of Covid-19.
In one of the working documents recently shared, the Ministry proposed an enforcement of daily reviews of the school routines to provide for shorter and core curriculum school days with classes scheduled between 8:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
However, a school with huge candidate classes that cannot be accommodated in available space was planned to have options of teaching either in shifts or an alternate day attendance schedule.
Furthermore, all schools that reopen for candidates-only, according to the document, would operate as day or boarding but not both.
All schools will be required to have facilities for hand washing, maintain the two-meter distance between learners, have at least 10 to 15 students in a standard classroom for primary and secondary and tertiary institutions and ensuring good ventilation.
Other SOPs include; regular disinfection, restricted community access, supervising break periods, and scatter releasing students for breaks, lunch, and going home to limit interaction.
Several school heads have however raised fears that some of stipulated SOPs may be difficult to implement. Richard Abura, headteacher Nakasero primary school notes that with the resources at their disposal, it will be difficult to take on the entire school community.
Besides the normal school budget, the Ministry requiresShs 1.67 billion to facilitate the reopening for candidates only and Shs 97.6 billion in a scenario that requires all students to report to their respective schools.
The said funds are to help implement the Standard Operating Procedures in full to prepare schools for reopening.