NCHE advises universities on new entrants, vaccination

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The National Council for Higher Education-NCHE has advised higher institutions of learning to avoid scheduling classes for newly admitted students before handling current first-year students.

Universities and other tertiary institutions will be opening their gates to learners on November 1, nearly five months after the second closure of educational institutions as one of the measures taken by the government to forestall the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Saul Waigolo, the NCHE spokesperson says that although universities have a green light to open a new academic year and admit students who sat their Uganda Advanced Certificate of  Education-UACE examinations in 2020, they are advised to ensure the 2019 first-year students progress to the next year of study.

Waigolo notes that this is part of the directives issued by Education Minister Janet Kataha Museveni requiring institutions to give priority to first-year students who have been stuck in the system for close to two years. The guideline means that new entrants at university might delay reporting for studies.

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Several private universities were planning to have new entrants on campus with the expected resumption of physical classes. Frank Obunyo, the Uganda Christian University spokesperson says that they are planning to receive new entrants alongside the continuing students.

In the same development, the council has cautioned institutions from giving a blanket ban on unvaccinated students and staff upon reopening. This comes barely days after universities issued communication noting that they will not allow any non-vaccinated students to attend lectures.

Waigolo says blocking students without trying other options is unfair. “The universities should first put up alternative options like opening vaccination centres at their campuses upon reopening and mobilizing students to vaccinate.”

The suggested approach of vaccinating learners from the institutions upon return to their respective institutions of learning was employed by health training institutions when they reopened a few months ago.

Busitema, Victoria University and Cavendish University have already put in place vaccination centres where students and staff will be vaccinated from days before the reopening.

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The National Council for Higher Education requires that after time, the institutions must submit progress updates by providing the status on staff and student vaccination and details on resumption including how progressive learning has been managed.

Meanwhile, before any institution reopens, it will be required to submit a customized programme that will ensure the reopening of its facilities in a staggered manner. According to guidance from the council, the staggering should be in conformity with the standard operating procedure issued by the health ministry, particularly physical distancing requirements in lecture rooms, halls of residents, dining halls and campus generally.

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