Members of the National Economy committee of Parliament have called for the cancellation of the 2020 academic year. The call comes close to four months after the closure of schools and other educational institutions, as one of the measures to control the spread of Coronavirus Disease.
According to MPs, it is not feasible to re-open schools for the continuation of the academic year amidst the burden of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that were put in place to tame the virus. Committee chairperson Hajjati Syda Bbumba noted that the procedures would put an enormous strain on the finances of schools forcing most of them to close.
The committee was meeting the State Minister for Higher Education John Chrysostom Muyingo to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education and sports sector.
Ayivu county MP Bernard Atiku castigated the ministry for keeping the nation on tenterhooks on the closure of schools. He added that it would be ideal to declare a dead year for schools considering that it is impossible to proceed under the current circumstances.
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The director of Basic and secondary education Ismael Mulindwa told MPs that the schools would reopen in phases starting with candidate classes as soon as the ministry observes how learning can be allowed to continue under the new SOPs.
His statement, however, contradicted an observation by the Commissioner for Education Planning and Policy Analysis Fredrick Matyama who observed that the cost of re-opening schools is above what the government can afford. According to Matyama, the government needs up to 78 trillion Shillings to enforce COVID-19 standard Operating Procedures in schools.
However, Muyingo noted that the ministry was ready to declare schools open as long as the health ministry gives them a green light.
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The MPs also called on the ministry to shelve the program for the distribution of learning materials saying it has no impact. This' after the minister observed 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.
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Okumu was supported by the Ruhinda North MP Thomas Tayebwa and the 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.
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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.