After nearly two years of schools being closed, today school officially resume operation as per the Presidental guidelines following his end of year national address on covid-19.
More than 15 million learners have had their studies interrupted since March 2020 when the President imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
With the country currently facing a third wave of the pandemic, more than 150,000 people have since the onset contracted the virus, with at least 3,325 succumbing to the disease.
The President during his end of year address announced reopening the economy in a phased manner. It included reopening of schools on January 10 which is today, following the reopening of institutions of higher learning in November 2021.
Just as it was during the closing of schools, so many questions linger on what the future holds for leaners. The National Planning Authority in a report last year said up to 30 percent of students are expected not to return to class due to teenage pregnancy, early marriage and child labour.
The run up to the reopening of schools has been nothing but chaotic. It has been characterised by contradicting directives to parents from both government and school proprietors, the latest being mandatory Covid-19 tests for returning students.
Schools thought it wise to contract private health workers, some not authorised to carryout Covid-19 tests, to check students at the expense of the parents. Whereas it could be looked at as a positive measure, the schools were charging way above the market price.
However Government insists testing of students is not needed for the safe reopening of schools.
Officials at the ministry of Education also issued guidelines on fees, warning school owners against increasing tuition fees. But some institutions have gone ahead and defied the orders. This works against parents who have been struggling to make ends meet since the economy was closed in early 2020.
Guidelines have also been issued to schools to prepare to receive child mothers and pregnant girls.
A recent UN Population Fund report indicates that Uganda has been registering more than 32,000 teenage pregnancies monthly since March 2020. Government must ensure that schools do not turn away these children.
If we are to successfully lure learners back to classrooms, government needs to strictly enforce its guidelines. Otherwise, the numbers will be more than the 30 percent the UN predicts will give up on school.