KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Ministry of Health has advised the Education Ministry to consider shortening the current school term and allow children to sit for their exams early to go home due to the current Ebola outbreak.
The Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng while appearing on NTV yesterday said schools are difficult areas to deal with in implementing preventive measures and therefore early closure of the term could be a solution to prevent the pupils from contracting Ebola.
“It would be extremely nice if the Ministry of Education considered early exams so that we are only left with the candidates,” Dr Aceng said.
“We know that the timeframe for candidates to do their exams has already been fixed. The fewer the learners at school, the easier for us to carry out surveillance and ensure that learners are safe,” she added.
According to Aceng, it’s extremely difficult for children to maintain social distance and therefore if the term ends early, candidates who are sitting for the finals can be accorded maximum distancing and this could help curb the spread the deadly disease.
The Minister’s plea comes after six learners last week tested for Ebola in Kampala, further raising fears of the swift spread of the haemorrhagic fever in the capital, and across the country.
Dr Aceng’s suggestion was however rejected by the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) who said cutting the promotional term short would affect the content and curriculum coverage which has already been previously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Filbert Baguma, the UNATU Executive Secretary argues that even in their communities, the learners would get still get Ebola, and therefore closing the schools shouldn’t be an option in the fight against the epidemic.
Mr Yusuf Welunga, the president of the Uganda National Students’ Association, also opposed the move saying it is not the best direction to take.
“We appreciate the fact that the disease is with us and I encourage students to be cautious. However, sitting for examinations is not the best option. Students are not prepared to have abrupt examinations as this affects their performance,” Mr Welunga said.
He added that sending children home early will increase the financial burden on the parents, some of whom have just completed paying school fees.
Mr Hassadu Kirabira, the National Private Educational Institutions Association secretary, said whereas they don’t want to see Ebola cases in schools, the institutions should be informed if schools are to close early so that they can plan better.
He said some of the schools have not yet completed the syllabus.
According to the 2022/2023 schools and other institutions calendar issued by the Ministry of Education and Sports early this year, the third term commenced on September 5 and is expected to end on December 9, about five weeks from today.
In the meantime, the minister advised schools to create a safe school environment by instituting mandatory temperature screening and washing hands all the time.
She said any child who falls sick while at school should be reported to the health workers immediately so that he/she is evacuated for testing, and that those who miss school should be followed up, adding that the ban on school visitations and leavers parties issued last week still stands.
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