Under the proposal, a section of students would study from 9:00am to midday and another from midday to 3:00pm.

DEOs want learners to study in shifts

Seninde (right) handing over a copy of a schools inspection newsletter to Amolatar DEO Josephine Acen, during a workshop on reopening of schools. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo

Under the proposal, a section of students would study from 9:00am to midday and another from midday to 3:00pm.

EDUCATION  | COVID-19

KAMPALA- The National Association of Municipal and District Education Officers (NAMUDEO) has proposed studying in shifts for both continuing students and candidates.

The move, according to NAMUDEO, will enable schools address the challenge of maintaining social distance as recommended by health experts in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Under the proposal, a section of students would study from 9:00am to midday and another from midday to 3:00pm.

The proposed time frame, according to NAMUDEO, would favour both continuing students and candidates. It will favour schools with better structures and those without.

Additionally, a section of DEOs also proposed that schools with huge enrolment, should transfer some of the students to schools with small numbers, but with better facilities.

The above proposals, the association says, will favour all schools, including those under universal primary and secondary education programmes.

The suggestions come when the education ministry is holding a dialogue with different stakeholders on safe ways of reopening education institutions.

On March 20, President ordered the closure of educational institutions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. An estimated 15 million learners in 73,240 institutions and 548,192 teachers were affected.

Recently, a similar meeting was held in Kampala between the top managements of the education ministry and district, city and municipal education officers.

The meeting, held at the Imperial Royale Hotel, had 30 education officers from districts, municipalities and cities.

During the meeting, Fredrick Kiyingi Kinobe, the NAMUDEO general secretary, expressed fear that just a handful of schools will be able to implement the recently set Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for schools.

“The SOPs recommend about 20 students per classroom, but both private and public schools do not have facilities to handle these numbers. That explains why we are recommending studying in shifts,” he said.

For schools to maintain SOPs, Kinobe said, they will be required to invest in newstructures, which require funds.

At the moment, Kinobe said, all schools are financially handicapped and that they will be unable to implement the proposed SOPs set by the health ministry.

The proposals were backed by Hajj Ismail Mulindwa, the chairperson of the coronavirus taskforce at the education ministry.

Mulindwa said: “If our schools cannot implement the SOPs, we can take advantage of the arrangement of studying in shifts. We will discuss it with the top ministry management to seek guidance.”

Other proposals

To limit contacts among students, the DEOs called for cancellation or postponement of after-class activities, such as games and sports.

They also want schools to serve breakfast and lunch or supper in classrooms, as opposed to lining up at serving points or dining halls.

NAMUDEO also wants a ban on visitors and restrictions on vendors at any school compound.

“We want individual classroom and office materials, such as laboratory apparatus for practical lessons,” Kinobe said.

Mixed reactions

A section of district education officers were against the proposed reopening, while some called for a dead year.

Lubuge Kajura, the Nakasongola DEO, says candidates studying for just three weeks of third term is insufficient, yet they had a lot to cover before the final examinations.

“Allowing them to write exams means the schools will have produced half-baked candidates.

“For instance Biology is wide, but we are saying senior candidates should have exams and yet they covered little of their second year in high school,” he said.

No plans for a dead year

Rosemary Seninde, the Minister of State for Primary Education, emphasised that there are no plans to have a dead year.

She said the education ministry is preparing reading materials for all learners, including candidates, to prepare them for examinations.

“Government is about to procure radios, and we are printing more reading materials to prepare our learners. This explains why we are calling upon parents to monitor leaners at home,” she said.

In addition, she asked DEOs and inspectors of schools to monitor whether students are studying in their respective jurisdictions.

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