KAMPALA — The Ministry of Education has announced a new education calendar for schools, tertiary institutions and universities.
In her address to the nation on Saturday night, Education Minister Janet Museveni also directed all universities and tertiary institutions to halt all online examinations until the country has existed the coronavirus catastrophe.
Mrs. Museveni noted she had received several complaints that some Universities are forcing students to pay for and do online Examinations during this period, “yet quite a number of our students do not have the required facilities and the money to do this.”
The revealed that the Ministry of Education has developed a robust plan including constituting a sector response task force to develop and coordinate the education sector preparedness and response measures to mitigate the impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 on Uganda’s education system.
This plan, she said, directly targets an estimated 15,000,000 children and youth in primary and secondary schools, universities, and other tertiary institutions in Uganda, teachers, school administrators, parents, and other key stakeholders.
She added that it also addresses the education needs for over 600,000 refugee learners in the 13 districts hosting refugees in the country.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to address you today on the Uganda Education Sector preparedness and response to the COVID 19 virus. In January, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the new Coronavirus disease a public health emergency of international concern.
The World Health Organisation also indicated that it was spreading rapidly to other regions, countries, and territories.
1.2 Impact of COVID-19 on Education
Following the outbreak, education systems worldwide have been significantly affected by the impact of the COVID-19 virus. According to UNESCO at least 165 countries have closed schools globally and more than 516,000 million children and youth are affected. 17 other countries are implementing localized school closure.
In Uganda, there are over 15 million learners enrolled in the education system.
In addition to that, approximately 600,000 more children are attending schools in the refugee settlements. Some of these settlements are located in high risk towns bordering countries that have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, increasing the risks for the entire school system in Uganda.
The bulk of Ugandan students are enrolled in day schools while others are in boarding schools where many facilities are shared and learners are constantly in close contact with each other, their teachers and other visitors on a daily basis, presenting a conducive environment for easy transmission of the COVID- 19 virus.
In response to the danger posed by the pandemic to Uganda learners, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda on Wednesday 18th March 2020 announced the closure of all schools and educational institutions from 20th March 2020 for a period of 30 days in a bid to avoid the possible rapid spread of new infections of COVID- 19 were schools to remain open. This measure resulted in the closure of more than 73,000 schools and institutions affecting more than 15,000,000 learners and 548,000 teachers.
1.3 What the Ministry of Education and Sports has done
In recognition of the impact of a pandemic on the education system in Uganda, the Ministry of Education constituted a sector response task force to develop and coordinate the education sector preparedness and response measures to mitigate the impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 on Uganda’s education system.
A response plan was subsequently developed to ensure a coordinated response by the Ministry of Education and Sports, DLGs and stakeholders to COVID-19 outbreak. This plan directly targets an estimated 15,000,000 children and youth in primary and secondary schools, universities, and other tertiary institutions in Uganda, teachers, school administrators, parents, and other key stakeholders.
Additionally, the plan addresses the education needs for the approximately 600,000 refugee learners in the 13 districts hosting refugees in the country.
This plan guides the response actions of the Ministry of Education and Sports, Education Development Partners, District Local Governments and the entire school system on common response priorities.
The sector response plan is also aligned to the Ministry of Health’s National Plan for COVID-19 preparedness and response and directly contributes to two implementation pillars:
To date the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education and Sports has undertaken a series of measures designed to provide the much-needed support to improve coordination among stakeholders, enhance communication,build capacities of government systems at national and sub national levels as well as provide resources to ensure continuity of learning during the period of closure, which include the following:
1. Set up a sector Coordination Committee to coordinate efforts by education stakeholders to respond to the emerging needs of learners, teachers, education authorities and communities during and after COVID-19 outbreak.
2. Issued policy guidelines in a circular to all heads of schools on school closure operations.
3. We have collected the contact details of all District Education Officers and Head teachers for follow up actions in the local governments.
4. In a bid to ensure that the children are learning during this time of school closure, the ministry under the guidance of NCDC is developing standardised self study lesson packages in all the core subjects for primary and secondary education to be distributed to all learners, including special needs learners across the country.
5. The Ministry has directed Governing councils of universities and other tertiary institutions to ensure that measures are put in place to ensure continuity of remedial learning for all learners.
6. The Ministry has also directed all education institutions not to levy any extra fees in all education institutions following the resumption of education programmes in the current school term/ semester.
7. The ministry is also working with heads of primary and secondary schools to identify model teachers to prepare remedial learning to be delivered on radio and television stations across the country. Other delivery models are being explored to reach all children across the country.
1.4 Opening of schools
As you may be aware, the 30 days will end on 20th April 2020. At the right time the Government of Uganda will inform you of the date for re-opening. Our planning is that, if everything goes according to plan, God willing;
(a) Pre-primary, primary, secondary schools, and Primary Teachers Colleges will open for continuation of Term I on 27th April 2020 up to 12th June 2020. Term 2:22nd June to 4th September and Term 3:21st September to 19th December 2020
(b)Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions, including BTVET institutions will open Continuation of the current Semester on 2nd May, 2020.
However, I would like you to note the following:
1. The Ministry will still operate 3 school Terms and 2 Semesters respectively. When schools re-open, it will be a continuation of Term 1. NO extra fees should be charged.
2. To recover the lost days, the first and second Term holidays will be shorter.
3. There shall be no formal test or exams at the end of Term 1. All the time should be used for teaching and learning. Cumulative end of topic class-based results should be used on end of term reports.
4. Candidates shall do only ONE school generated Mock Examinations at the end of Term 2.
5. Therefore all schools are herewith barred from engaging students in any externally set mock examinations this year, to ensure syllabus recovery time is not wasted.
6. We have received several complaints/concerns that some Universities are forcing students to pay for and do online Examinations during this period, yet quite a number of our students do not have the required facilities and the money to do this.
We have therefore, decided that all these Examinations be suspended until we are out of this crisis
1.5 In the event that school closure continues;
The Ministry recognizes that the possible spread of the virus in many parts of the country may result into prolonged school closure with a further reduction and loss of instruction time, low coverage of syllabus with significant impact on learning outcomes.
However, the MoES is committed to its vision of “Quality education and Sports for all”. Quality education is achieved when learners are developed holistically in the minds or heads, hearts and hands. This is achieved beyond the four walls of a classroom but reinforced by effective implementation of the whole curriculum. It involves a number of stakeholders in and out of school including the learners, teachers, school leadership and governance, parents, Local Government political and civil leaders, religious and cultural leaders, key central government Ministries and the Members of Parliament.
I recognize and appreciate the efforts of some of the Universities, schools and other citizens including the Buganda Kingdom to keep learners engaged through e- learning systems, Televisions and Radios. I, however, note that it is benefiting a small percentage of our learners and is not effectively coordinated.
We will send out a harmonized continuous learning programme for all Primary and Secondary school learners to all LGs and Association of Secondary Schools Headteachers of Uganda (ASSHU) where selected teachers will use Local Radios which can be accessed by most learners and TVs where possible. The teaching will be focusing on core basic concepts in what learners have already covered. This will be supplemented with printed material wherever possible.
The continuation of the systematic curriculum coverage will take place at school after the re-opening.
I appeal to all the stakeholders who will be involved according to the plan to ensure that every learner listens and learns at home during the designated time. Head teachers and teachers should listen to the lessons and eventually mark and give remedial lessons to the learners when schools re-open. Teachers are requested to use the recess to prepare all the lessons for the remaining part of Term 1, God willing.
All learners at all levels should continue to read, study and revise the work of the previous years since our curriculum is spiral and the concepts of one level are useful in the next level. Read novels, Newspapers and any other material you access to widen your knowledge base. This is very applicable to University and tertiary institution students since you already have course outlines and can get a lot of information on internet.
I further wish to request the parents to involve the learners in their home activities to give them skills for life such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, looking after animals, business, Art, music, physical play and sports and many others. Spend time with your learners to develop their values and positive attitudes.
Tell them stories, riddles and other life lessons and support their learning. Help your learners to make a craft or develop an innovation which will be required at school at the re-opening.
Counsel, guide and encourage children to wait for the re-opening of schools with enthusiasm and zeal. I appeal to all of us to work together to ensure that no child is left out. All our learners are valuable and should benefit from the efforts on continuation of learning amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
The Ministry of Education will continue to engage further with stakeholders in the event that the mandatory closure of schools persists beyond the thirty days.
It is important to realize that in this very difficult time, what must be the most important concern for all of us is the safety of our students and staff in the education sector and we are committed to undertake our responsibility to take every precautionary and preventative measure.
We will continue to actively monitor the situation and make further recommendations as guided by the Ministry of health,
including the decision as to whether students will return to school after the pronounced 30-day closure or continue their education at home. Ministry of Health has continued to advise that the best way to contain this virus is by limiting opportunities for human contact, good hygiene, and social distancing. I am happy to note that a number of Ugandans are embracing the values of good hygiene and I pray this continues.
I am deeply conscious of the impact that the school closures have on students, on families and on the wider community, and I pray that together we contain the spread and return to normal.
In the meantime, I encourage our parents and guardians to work together in the best interest of our children during this time when they are at home.
With a spirit of togetherness, let us help each other as much as possible as a community, by sharing childcare responsibilities with family members and other trusted individuals.
This is a tough time for everyone but together let us look after our children. I encourage children and young people to keep up with their schoolwork and to help their parents around the home. I urge you to remain engaged in physical play and sports while at home in order to keep healthy.
Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to all the government agencies, individuals, organizations and education partners for the support they continue to accord the ministry during this difficult time and in particular, I applaud all the health workers who are putting up a spirited fight for the recovery of the confirmed cases and prevention of further infections.
To all our Headteachers, teachers and lecturers, we are so grateful for all you do, particularly the effort that has gone into contingency planning, for our learners.
This disaster will certainly test us as a people, but, it may also teach us things we may live to remember and even appreciate and in any case with God in the centre no obstacle is too big to be removed. As we continue in this period of uncertainty, trust the Lord and remain calm.
I ask that we all adhere to the ongoing guidelines from Government, stay safe and pray for God’s mercy in the midst of this pandemic.
I will continue to update you on what is happening in the education sector as we receive new advice from the Ministry of Health. Please keep safe and ensure the safety of our young people.
I thank you all and God bless you!