The Minister of State for Higher Education John Chrysestom Muyingo has on Wednesday revealed that Government is awaiting advice from scientists to determine whether to reopen for other continuing students that are still under COVID-19 lockdown or maintain the finalists who are winding up the second term.
Speaking to reporters at the launch of the 27th annual Education and Sports Sector Review in Kampala on Wednesday, Muyingo said that inspectors are already in the field monitoring how the COVID-19 situation is faring.
“We need the scientists/ experts to advise us. But of course that has got to depend on the inspection reports we are getting from the field. Our inspectors are already in the field trying to see how the school managers are managing the candidates in the face of COVID-19. If the reports tally with what the experts’ advice will be, we will be able to determine when the schools will be opening,” Muyingo said.
President Museveni in March 2020 ordered the closure of all education institutions in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Museveni later allowed partial reopening where only final year students were allowed to resume studying.
However, there have been increasing cases of COVID-19 in schools since reopening for candidate classes.
Asked whether the Ministry of Education is worried about the emerging COVID-19 cases in schools, Muyingo said, “definitely. Anything that affects the lives of our children worries everybody especially us who are in education sector. That is why it is important that we don’t rush into a decision of opening just for the sake of opening. That is why we need to be very conscious. That is why we need to study the situation and see that our children are safe, secure and able to learn. Because when somebody is sick, they will not be able to learn.”
When Government imposed a lockdown in March 2020 in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, it introduced homeschooling in which reading materials were distributed to learners at home.
However, there were reports that various homes especially in remote areas of Uganda never received the materials.
President Museveni would later announce that each home would receive a free radio set from Government to facilitate distance learning. However, up to today, no single home has received a radio set for the purpose.
Asked when learners will receive the materials, Muyingo said they are still in talks with the Ministry of Finance.
“We are still talking with Finance (Ministry of Finance) to give us money. They have made a commitment to give us some money,” he said.
Muyingo noted the very crucial part which is development of materials has been covered.
“What is now left is, we need very little money to print out those materials and distribute them. That is the amount of money we need.”
Asked whether the materials will be relevant given that schools have partially reopened particularly for final year students, Muyingo said that even after full reopening, the material will still be necessary.
“What we did in this second set is to cover all that a child is supposed to know in a complete year. You are aware that we have just completed second term for the candidate classes. Second term has not started for the other classes. Whether the schools are opened or not, those materials will be necessary,” he said.
Registration of candidates for national examinations
The Executive Secretary of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) Dan Odongo said that despite the COVID-19 lockdown that crippled the economy and people’s welfare, the Board has registered a bigger number of candidates than projected.
“In terms of registration, we note that at Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), we have actually exceeded the number which we had initially projected. We were projecting about 720,000 children to register for PLE but we have registered almost 750,000. That’s nearly 30,000 more children than we had projected,” he said.
Odongo added that despite the fears that many girls would not be able to register, it turned otherwise as 52% of the total number of children who registered for PLE were girls.
Registration of candidates began on October 22, 2020, just a week after reopening of schools and the exercise went on until 30th November.
UNEB later gave a grace period of 1 week which ended on Monday December 7, 2020 to enable new centres effectively finalise the process and give opportunity to those who may not have registered within the set period to do so.
A total of 1,181,666 candidates have been registered for all three levels of Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) and Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE). The number is higher than 1,138,000 who registered in 2019.
This represents a 3.8% percentage increase in total number of candidates.
“We have registered slightly more girls, about 50.3% of the total number of candidates who registered for UCE,” said Odongo.
For UACE, however, it has been a usual trend that only about 42% of the total number of candidates are girls.
“This has been the trend over the last so many years, partly because we think that girls after UCE, there are so many other opportunities that present themselves. For example, you may find a lot of the girls going to do nursing and midwifery courses rather than join the UACE,” Odongo noted.