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Schools Stuck; No Funding as Reopening Dates Draw Closer

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Lira District Inspector of Schools Patrick Olwit explains that in the absence of funding, schools will be incapacitated as they start a new journey, filled with unusual arrangements, and uncertainty.
13 Oct 2020 14:35
A man washing his hands immediately after entering Central Primary school in Hoima City.Photo by Emmanuel Okello.

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With just two days left to the much-anticipated school reopening dates, government-aided schools across the country are stuck, with no money to put in place the required facilities for implementing COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures.

Even though the government was 'chest-thumping' that it had released close to 32 billion Shillings as a capitation grant for all schools and an additional 1.5 million Shillings for each school to put up the required equipment in line with the standard operating procedures, headteachers say, the money is yet to get to them. Some of the needed supplies include, among others, hand washing equipment, sanitizers, disinfectants, and temperature guns.

Zadock Tumuhimbise, the chairperson of Uganda National Teachers Union says that the delayed release of capitation grants is frustrating school heads. Tumuhimbise cautions that most government schools may not be ready for opening by Thursday.  

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In most of the government-aided schools visited by our teams, arrangements have been made to ensure that there is enough spacing to accommodate the learners with little or no contact, and that the handwashing facilities are put in place. Some schools had just cleared bushes that covered the school during the lockdown.

Ben Mugasho, the deputy headteacher at Kabale Secondary School, shares that preparations, especially in ordering items to use are stressing them due to the financial crisis. He adds that although they were told to procure items and pay later, none of the suppliers is willing to give out items on credit.

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Moroto District Education Officer Paul Oputa says that most government schools in the area had enough space for social distancing and other requirements but lacked the basic requirements outlined as part of the COVID-19 procedures, and therefore they could not give them a green light to reopen.   

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Lira District Inspector of Schools Patrick Olwit explains that in the absence of funding, schools will be incapacitated as they start a new journey, filled with unusual arrangements, and uncertainty. Olwit, however, advises school authorities to work together with school management committees to make some arrangements as they wait for funds.

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But, Paul Ntale, the Headteacher of Duhaga Secondary school in Hoima, says that even if they get some funds and set up the required equipment, schools will need more funds to address other needs like paying off utility bills and feeds. 

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The funding challenges came after the government decided to halt quarterly releases to educational institutions during the lockdown. The Ministry of Finance also asked the schools to return some of the funds they had obtained for the would be the second term.   

Headteachers that our reporters talked to note that if the funds had not been halted, the current panic ad confusion could have been avoided. Francis Muhereza, the headteacher Semuliki High School in Bundibugyo says the school has no operational funds at the moment, and that the delayed releases are straining their planning.

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Ezekia Masereka, a headteacher at Standard Nursery and Primary School in Ntotoro Sub County says they are financially struggling to meet all the requirements. His says that the school is relying on parents who have promised to contribute funds to buy sanitizers, soap and handwashing facilities.

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Ayaa Jackson Kayo, the headteacher of Global high school in Tororo municipality, has faulted inspectors for applying double standards as they are pressing private schools on the SOPs and ‘lightly supervising’ government schools yet most of them are ill-prepared. “They are handling private schools with an iron fist yet government schools have not set up anything,” says Kayo.    

In the same development, private schools that are also still struggling with setting up the required items and meeting the SOPs are guessing how to secure operating finances to keep them in business.     

Justus Bithaghalise, the Bundibugyo District Education Officer says that most schools are yet to acquire temperature guns and hand washing facilities.  He, however, adds that any school that will fall short of the SOPs will not open and the learners will be transferred to other schools.

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However, Ismail Mulindwa, the chairperson of the education COVID-19 response taskforce says that  despite the delays, the funds will eventually hit the school accounts. “The money was released. I know that they are looking at timelines. There might be system delays in their respectful local governments but each school will receive the money,’ Mulindwa said in an interview. 

Meanwhile, the inspection teams in different areas are in the final phases and expect to produce a list of schools that will be allowed to reopen. According to inspection guidelines, no school will be reopened without meeting at least 60 per cent of the set indicators out of which social distancing and the availability of handing washing facilities are critical.  

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