UGANDA: First lady appeals to parents to ensure safety of their children as government plans to re-open schools.

UGANDA: First lady appeals to parents to ensure safety of their children as government plans to re-open schools.

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The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Janet Museveni has
appealed to parents and the communities to care for their children and ensure
their safety and security at home, while Government continues to plan for the re-
opening of all education institutions in the country.
She said that it is sad and a terrible problem for us as people and the country for
one to say that children are not safe at home and are being married off, raped
and getting pregnant, and yet Government closed schools at the onset of the
COVID-19 pandemic thinking that children will be safer with their families at
home.
“I can understand the proprietors and teachers wanting to open up schools
because that is their means of livelihood and the parents’ concern for their
children to go back to learn, but this problem of saying they are not safe at home,
is wrong and we must fight it as a people, parents, teachers, schools and families
because our children must be safe and feel secure in their families”, she said. She
also reminded Ugandans about an outcry that teachers were impregnating
children while at school and wondered where the children are now supposed feel
secure from.
She appealed to school proprietors to remind the parents that they have a
responsibility to the children they bring into the world and must make them feel
safe at home because schools are places where these children only go to learn,
but not places to run to because they are not safe at home.
“It is not right at all to think parents bring children into the world but then the
responsibility of taking care of the child will go to the teacher. The teacher should
take care of the child for a certain time when the child is at school, but the child
must be going back home for ultimate support, safety and security” she said.
Mrs. Janet Museveni was chairing an inter-ministerial meeting with the leadership
of proprietors and directors of private schools and institutions and members of
the National Schools and Institutions Covid-19 Committee to discuss the plans and
preparedness for re-opening of schools.
The meeting held at State House Entebbe on Friday, was attended by State
Ministers Hon. J.C Muyingo (Higher Education), Hon. David Bahati (Finance for

Planning), Hon. Rosemary Seninde (Primary Education), Hon. Obua Hamson Denis
(Sports), plus senior officials from the Ministries of Education and Finance.
Mrs. Museveni assured the private schools’ proprietors that the Education
Ministry shares their anxieties caused by the prolonged closure of their
institutions and is most of all concerned about the well-being of the 15 million
young Ugandans; the children, who are the future of this country.
She explained that education institutions were the first ones to be closed to
ensure that the learners are out of danger of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is
because this danger is still right here with us, that education has not been able to
open up even as the rest of the country is opening up.
She assured the country that the primary concern is the health of the learners and
that the Education Ministry together with the Ministry of Health, World Health
Organisation and Cabinet have held various discussions and a decision will soon
be reached either to open the schools in phases, or if by God’s grace a vaccine is
got soon, to let the children go back to school in their great numbers.
She was however concerned about the level of preparedness of the various
schools to adhere to and implement the Ministry of Health and World Health
Organisation’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
In response to their plea for Government bailout, Hon. David Bahati explained
that issues regarding NSSF and education institutions accessing resources from
UDB are still under discussion. He said that Government had resolved to defer the
accruing interest and penalties on tax obligations until when schools re-open. He
also said that Government will fast-track the President’s pledge of Sh.20 billion for
the Teachers SACCO to bail them out.
The Private Schools proprietors had requested Government to suspend all taxes
on education institutions, pay some money to the distressed teachers in private
schools, allowing early access of 20% to NSSF by their employees and UDB to buy
out the outstanding school loans
Hon. Muyingo said the level of preparedness is crucial to ensure the safety and
security of the big population of children in the congested schools
Hon. Rosemary Seninde thanked the teachers for being patient during the difficult
time when they are not earning an income.

Hon. Hamson Obua said every decision to re-open schools has to be guided by the
scientists. He emphasized that what is required now is to plan for a phased re-
opening in the short and medium terms, while preparing for the long term and
sustainable solution of re-opening all education institutions.
The Education Permanent Secretary Alex Kakooza said the Directorate of
Education Standards together with the Ministry of Health will inspect all the
schools to assess the level of compliance to the SOPs before the re-opening to
avoid endangering the students.
In their joint statement presented by Joseph Kiggundu, Chairperson of the
National Schools and Institutions COVID-19 Committee, the non-state education
providers in Uganda requested Government to devise ways and means to re-open
all education institutions and re-affirmed their commitment and readiness to
work with all responsible agencies to ensure that learners are safe and protected
from the pandemic by implementing the approved SOPs.
They also highlighted various challenges caused by the prolonged school closure,
including the increase in defilement and rape cases, early marriages and
pregnancies, child labour, displaced, hungry and agitated teachers, plus closing
down of some schools and tertiary institutions and pleaded for Government
bailout.
The School owners were assured that the Education and Finance Ministries will
continue with the discussion on how to support the schools on their financial
issues.

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