In a national address, President Museveni announced the reopening of schools for finalists – candidate classes of P7, S4 and S6, as well as trade school and university finalists. This welcome news for less than 10% of the total Ugandan student population poses significant re-opening challenges for school administrators. The smaller number of learners will allow for safe social distancing, reasons Museveni.
The list of safety requirements for reopening is daunting for someone like our program coordinator, Fr. Matthias, who is required to open St. Venansio Primary school and St. Andrew Secondary school to candidate classes on October 15.
Among the challenges, schools must be prepared to regularly take students’ temperatures, sanitize and fumigate classrooms, fence their campuses to prevent easy access, oversee frequent handwashing, and provide a sick room for each gender with a healthcare worker. If healthcare staffing is unavailable, the school must partner with a local clinic to provide space for ill students.
These requirements are costly and add to the financial complexity of paying teachers’ salaries and providing regular meals for boarding students whose parents have been unemployed during the lockdown and have little resources for tuition fees.
Malaria is a common illness among students and adults, and it presents many of the same symptoms as COVID-19 like fever, congestion, headaches and nausea. Distinguishing between this frequent illness and the virus adds another challenge to manage.
St. Venansio and St. Andrew campuses have at least one thing going for them. Thanks to the generosity of OHU supporters and the installation of solar-powered wells on campus in 2018, the requirement for regular washing using a foot pump and access to safe water are ready for returning students.
While the return of some students to school is a very welcome sign, we recognize the extraordinary effort it will take for administrators and teachers to meet the reopening requirements. We are thrilled that 35 of our current students are finalists, who will be able to resume class on Oct 15. We look forward to the future when 100% of our students are back in the classroom.