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UNATU Raises Concern Over Safety of Teachers When Schools Re-open

Filbert Baguma, the Secretary-General of UNATU says the SOPs and guidelines recently issued do not answer all the worries that teachers have. He says teachers are worried about measures that will keep them safe from Covid-19.
A teacher attending to learners

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The Uganda National Teacher Union has said that the Standard Operating Procedures-SOPs that were released by the education and health ministries to guide the re-opening of schools raise more questions regarding the safety of learners and teachers.

Last week, President Okayed the reopening of schools for all candidates and final students in tertiary institutions provided they have fulfilled the COVID-19 guidelines.

Some of the guidelines include Primary and secondary schools will not be allowed to operate both day and boarding sections at the same time, teachers and the learners should wear face masks, practice social distancing, among others.

Filbert Baguma, the Secretary-General of UNATU says the SOPs that have been given to schools are not satisfactory.

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Baguma says the SOPs and guidelines recently issued do not answer all the worries that teachers have. He says teachers are worried about measures that will keep them safe from Covid-19. 

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In addition to the SOPs, teachers are worried whether they will be reprimanded when learners perform poorly at national examinations or if they do not complete the syllabus on time. Some teachers are also concerned about the safety of marking books, while others are worried about existing co-morbidities that make them more susceptible to getting infected.

Dr Henry Kajumbura, a microbiologist and head of infection prevention and control on the COVID-19 ministerial committee says that if teachers adhere to the set guidelines, they will not get infected.

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According to Dr Kajumbura, the released SOPs are supposed to make the learning environment in schools safe. He explains that schools should enforce preventive measures at school gates such as checking temperatures and ensuring everyone entering a school wears a mask.

"We worked with the ministry of education to come up with SOPs that can allow for schools to re-open. Protecting oneself is important. If people take precautions to protect themselves, they will protect everyone else," he said.

Kajumbura, however, urged teachers to take caution when it comes to socializing with persons in communities.

"What we are seeing from health workers is that measures in treatment facilities are very strong but outside they are not. We, therefore, advise the association to tell its members to take care when in communities," he said.

An estimated 1.2 million learners are expected to return to schools next week after six months following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, Dr Kedrace Turyagenda, the Director of Education Standards in the Ministry of Education said that they have developed a checklist from the SOPs that all schools need to implement before they are allowed to reopen.

Some of the measures include the ability to maintain a population of 15 students and 10 pupils in a classroom, learners should sit two meters away from each other and every learner will be mandated to wear a mask during lessons. All classrooms will also have to have good ventilation.

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