A section of Ugandan parents thinks it is still unsafe and costly to send their children back to school given the risks of the COVID-19 as government moots plans to reopen schools.
After giving a green light last week to health students to return to school, President Yoweri Museveni has reportedly ordered the ministry of Education to develop a strategy by September 20 that will ensure that candidates and finalists resume school in the shortest time possible.
However, some parents favour declaring a dead year this academic year owing to the current high transport fares, school dues and scholastic materials for the students. Pascal Busingye, a parent with three children and security guard working at Paramount Health Centre, says currently parents have no money since all the savings were spent during the total lockdown. Busingye urges government to halt reopening schools this year so as to give parents ample time to look for school fees.
"This time, we don’t have money to take back our children to school, we need time. Next year, that will be good, it is enough time to look for money and transport for our children," Busingye said.
Busingye, who has worked for two months at his new job, requires at least Shs 6 million to send his children back to school. Evelyn Lunkuse, a team leader for distribution at Old Mutual Insurance and parent with four children and with a brother studying nursing at Mengo hospital raises doubts about whether the COVID -19 preventive measures are in place in schools.
"I have a brother doing nursing in Mengo hospital, he has not yet gone back. First of all, for education, someone can go to school any time, but life, you must protect your life first," she said.
However, Gerald, a nursing student at Mengo hospital says it would be okay to get back to school if the hospital is decongested, the students can have enough space in the lecture rooms, wards and hostels. Lunkuse too needs at least Shs 6 million for tuition and other requirements, in order to get back to school.
Mariam Nagawa, a senior four student of Faiha secondary school is optimistic candidate students can study given the spacious environment at school, but the hiked transport costs of Shs 2000 from Shs 500 to travel from Kabaga to Namere in Kawempe division may deter many from studying.
Abbas Tumwerinde, a cobbler at Mulago Referral hospital and parent will have to spend Shs 8,000 for each of his four children to travel from Mpererwe in Wakiso district to St Martin Primary School in Mulago II village in Kampala to study. He says in addition to other requirements like food, clothing, COVID -19 protective gears and school fees, he cannot afford the cost and government should reduce school fees before opening up schools.
Tumwerinde needs about Shs 440,000 to take the children to school, in case government reopens them. The mixed feelings among parents and students reflect deep and widespread anxiety among parents as they anticipate the end of a lockdown in Uganda, that has produced no national consensus on how to balance the risks of COVID -19 against the academic, social and economic impacts of keeping schools closed.