Education minister Janet Museveni has rejected calls to reopen international schools ahead of the lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown.
With Uganda remaining as an island of school closures in the region, members of the diplomatic community in Uganda have been pushing the government to give special consideration to the reopening of international schools.
During his visit to the State House on Friday afternoon, The Belgium Ambassador to Uganda, Rudi Veestraeten raised the concern to the education authorities, noting that many of his colleagues are worried about the continued closure of international schools which denies their children access to education.
Most diplomats and several staff in the embassies educate their children in international schools, not leaving out several financially able Ugandans who have chosen to educate their children in such schools.
Veestraeten defending calls for reopening of international schools, saying that they are able to observe Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs). He also added that reopening in January as proposed by the government means that learners in international schools will lose close to six months on the new academic year since their academic calendar runs from September.
When the government announced the partial reopening of schools last year, the Education ministry gave a green light to both international schools and those for special needs learners to reopen at full capacity.
It was explained that the two categories of schools always have a limited number of students enrolled and authorities at the ministry of Education believed that even with all learners back, they can ably observe the SOPs.
However, when the president was reducing restrictions on school closures, international schools were only allowed to reopen for candidates to enable them write their final examinations.
Apart from Veestraeten’s call, Ms Museveni added that many other diplomats have been reaching out to her with a similar concern. She however noted that she has found it difficult to allow their prayers.
The minister notes despite being convinced that international schools are able to enforce standard operating procedures, reopening these schools yet the local ones are still closed will paint a very bad picture and would be seen as discrimination among learners of different communities and social classes.
“We don’t know when to say international schools can reopen but we do know they are very strict with SOPs but what if they do catch Covid-19 and go home. How shall we explain that to our community? And there is that misunderstanding anyway that we will reopen international schools but we’ll not reopen our own schools and that is very difficult to explain because we must work by the same principle,” said Ms Museveni
Her observation comes at a point as the functionality of international schools have been generating a lot of public debate with people castigating the government for neglecting local learners yet learners in international schools are allowed to study. Some private operators had also rebranded and renamed their schools ‘international’ so that they could fully reopen.
To end all the doubts, Ms Museveni asserts that the principal of school reopen will be uniform to all schools in the country sending apologies to the members of the diplomatic community.
She further advises that parents with learners in international schools, members of the diplomatic community inclusive, to make use of online collaborative tools and will only be allowed to reopen to do examinations if the need arises.
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