Mirian Ndyanabo, the headteacher of the British School of Kampala says that although international schools are somehow different, they have a lot in common with all other schools, especially since they handle students and teachers in one locality at the same time.
12-year-old Nathaniel Kamoga from Nansana municipality has
been at home without any form of learning for the last 10 months. This is as a
result of the unprecedented closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kamoga, one of the 15 million learners, looks forward to the
re-opening of schools but neither his parents nor authorities at the education
ministry can provide an answer for the many uncertainties surrounding the
But, even though millions of learners remain home, their
counterparts in International schools were operating on full scale and learners
have already returned to school for a new school term, with regular physical
teaching and learning activities.
Mirian Ndyanabo, the headteacher of the British School of
Kampala says that although international schools are somehow different, they
have a lot in common with all other schools, especially since they handle students and teachers in one locality at the same time.
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Social distancing remains one of the giant blocks towards the
re-opening of schools as inspection reports have shown that whereas schools
might meet most of the standard operating procedures, many don't have enough
space for all children at the set social distance.
To achieve a minimum social distance, the school, which
operates throughout the day, decided to have a staggering learning system where
students in selected classes are expected at school at different time zones.
According to the system, candidates are expected to report to school every day,
while other classes report, every other week.
Ndyanabo notes that the group that is not at school is given
tasks to accomplish, which stretches from academic and other life skill-based
assignments presented for assessment upon returning to school.
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The adopted system helps the school to have enough space
where at most, 16 learners occupy a room. However, in their different classes,
learners don't necessarily sit two meters apart.
Our reporter observed the same at Vienna College, Namugongo,
where each class had about 24 students seating at least a meter apart. At Horizon International School, they use a hybrid with some
learners attending physical classes while others use the online option. Godfrey
Ssekitoleko, the head of the primary section, says they decided to use two
different learning options to adhere to the spacing specifications.
Joe Billy Kisozi, an educationist and teacher trainer says
that they have erected some more temporary structures so that more learners
can be allowed back to school.
"International schools' standard is high. These are
schools which are critical when it comes to standards but we can benchmark and
localize, for instance with a staggered system we can have at least more three
or two classes back to school on all levels," says Kisozi.
Kisozi also notes that schools might use other means like
staggering lessons of the same class under the same system. For example, if a
class has 100 learners, they might be divided into three or four groups and
each given contact hours or days. Learners at international schools have
already adopted to the staggering learning system.
Cedrick Mwijukye, a student in Year 11 says that it’s better
for him to attend school for some days and then be given some time to keep him
busy another day than studying online or stopping classes entirely.
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A similar idea had already been mentioned by the education
ministry while re-opening schools for the candidate classes. However, it
remains packed as the narrative and discussion on school re-opening seems to be
shifting towards the expected COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the Ministry of Health, the earliest Uganda can
get vaccines will be in April. When the vaccination period is factored in,
schools might re-open in June or July after one and half years of closure.
Ndyanabo says that the government needs to consider all the available
alternatives instead of extending the re-opening of school. Citing an example
from how learners could attend school during the war-ravaged times in the
1980's, Ndyanabo says the sooner the ministry takes a bold decision, the better.
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Ndyanabo thinks these can be best handled for boarding
students if they tested and then placed in a bubble where they are not
interacting with strangers. The same approach is being used in many other
How do learners play or socialize while at school?
According to the Ministry of Education SOPs, playing was
banned in schools during the times of COVID-19. However, British School of
Kampala has already come up with exciting games which learners can engage in
both indoor and outdoor.
Since the phased re-opening of schools for candidate classes,
over 150 learners have tested positive. All the cases in boarding schools were
handled using set protocols of schools alerting nearby health centres, who then
pick the student for treatment.