OpED

Open Letter to Education Minister Janet Museveni: We need to respect public holidays, regardless

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Education Minister Janet Museveni during a recent press address

Education Minister Janet Museveni during a recent press address (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA — It is quite long since I last addressed such a kind of letter to you, Mama.

In fact, it is now six months down the road when you are not receiving any correspondence from me via this channel. However, since this matter has fallen over the weekend where all public offices remain closed, I am left with no option, but to reveal my concern, of course, on behalf of the citizenry, as usual, to you, through an open letter.

While listening to news last night on CBS FM, it was said that, according to a reliable source from the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB), that the Board shall conduct examinations on March 8, even though they are fully aware that this is the day when the entire world celebrates the International Women’s day.

‘We wish to inform head teachers/heads of centre, invigilators, students, scouts, and the public, at large, that UNEB shall conduct examinations on March 8, as scheduled,’ said Jennifer Kalule, the Board’s chief mouthpiece.

‘Any student who chooses to celebrate the International Women’s day, and, therefore, ends up missing his/her exams, shall not be accorded any other opportunity, for the same’, Jennifer continued to say. Of course, we all know that once an exam, unlike a test, is missed, more so, of such a nature, at whatever level of instruction, it is missed, and can, therefore, only be done when next offered. With UNEB, you might even end up losing the entire academic year, depending on the exam missed, specifically at the Ordinary level.

In fact, at both the Primary and Advanced levels of education, you only need to miss only one examination, to lose the entire academic year. So, I personally found it unnecessary for UNEB to caution students about missing their exams on the aforementioned day. However, this is not the centre of argument.

To drive the whole point home, we need to ponder around these questions: First and foremost, why is UNEB conducting exams on a public holiday, moreover, on a day when women, world-over have to reflect on so many things about what ought to be done to reach their goals? While designing the examinations timetable, didn’t UNEB know that March 8, is a public holiday, moreover, on the international scene? Having rescheduled the 2020 exams from October/November, 2020, to March/April, 2021, why couldn’t UNEB shift the day’s exams to the next day? Precisely, what was there to lose if UNEB had honoured this VERY IMPORTANT day? Surely, why must a cross section of women be denied the right to celebrate the only day they have in a year, with fellow women, as though they are members of the armed forces, or any other institution whose staff must be on duty, throughout the year?

What message are we sending to the girl-child whom we want to grow into an empowered woman? Perhaps, as the minister in-charge of education, are you comfortable celebrating this day, while fellow women (female students, teachers, and UNEB officials) are busy with exams? What adverse effects would it have on the entire timetable, or even academic year, if UNEB chose to ‘delay’ these exams by just one day, and accord the aforementioned persons the opportunity to celebrate their day?

As a country, the day’s national celebrations shall be held in State house, Entebbe, and obviously, as a routine, there shall be a couple of speeches, including that of the President, specifically targeting women and the girl-child; so, while at their work stations, how do we expect the aforementioned persons to listen in to such important information?

Does UNEB want to tell us that celebrating the International Women’s day, is a luxury, and, therefore, should be treated as a mere option? Having decided to DELIBERATELY deprive women of their all-important day, does this, therefore, imply that UNEB is going to do the same to the Christian community (Catholics, Anglicans, and Pentecostals, in particular), on Good Friday and the so-called Easter Monday, during the Advanced level (S.6) examinations? Thankfully, Labour day falls on Saturday, so we can rest assured that there shall be no exams that day.

Do we expect these students, invigilators, scouts, and all those other concerned parties to fully concentrate on their work, on a day which they very well know, they are supposed to be off duty? While students have no option, but to present themselves for the exams, don’t you think some of the invigilators, scouts, and supervisors-both male and female, might decide not to report for work that day?

And even if they all report for work, do you really expect them to be as productive and efficient, as they would be on a normal working day? And if the essence of conducting these exams on this highly respected day, worldwide, was to catch up with the lost time, why then didn’t UNEB fix exams on Saturday and Sunday, as well? For heaven’s sake, did UNEB make any effort to ‘compute’ the cost-benefit analysis of conducting exams on the International Women’s day, vis-a-vis allowing women the opportunity to celebrate their day?

Unless correct, clear, and concrete answers to the aforementioned questions are found, I personally find no reason, whatsoever, as to why UNEB has deliberately decided to disfranchise women, moreover, on such a day, like this one. Honestly speaking, telling the head-mistress of Gayaza High School, Mt. St. Mary’s Secondary School, Namagunga, Nabisunsa Girl’s Secondary School, and all those other typical female students’ schools to report for work on March 8 (International Women’s day), is not any different from directing the head teacher of Kibuli Secondary School, Gombe Secondary School, Kyadondo Secondary School, or any other typical Muslim school, to include pork on their menu.

Without doubt, save for unavoidable circumstances, where one MUST be at work, regardless, it is very inappropriate for UNEB to force people, specifically women report for work on their all-important day. People who have been at university, specifically Makerere/MUBS, will bear me witness that, in spite of the fact that the International Labour day is usually celebrated while students are writing their end of semester two exams, at no point has the university ever administered exams on this day, whatsoever.

For UNEB to, therefore, assume that it is the only examining institution in Uganda, and perhaps the first to conduct examinations within a period comprising public holidays, and thus have all reasons to abuse such days, is wrong. We all know CoViD-19 has been, and is still a hard knack to crack, especially when it comes to the education sector, but regardless, we need to accord these public holidays, and, more so, the target audience for such days, the respect they deserve.

UNEB has no justification, whatsoever, for forcing our children, more so, the girl-child, and all those concerned with exams, women, in particular, into the examination room on March 8. It will be an open attack by UNEB, on the Christian fraternity, if they go ahead and administer exams, more so, on Good Friday.

Women deserve better-the reason they were accorded special status on the annual calendar, and so, depriving them of this status, is not only an attack on their rights, but an abomination, as well. It is, therefore, against this argument, that I am humbly calling upon you, Mama, to use your position, and direct UNEB make the necessary amends in their timetable, to enable the aforementioned persons also join up with the rest of the world in celebrating their day.

I strongly believe it is not too late to make the necessary amendments. However, in case the Board insists on having these exams done, like they have already done, I pray you direct them not to repeat the same mistake, for these public holidays are not just fashionable; they are celebrated for a reason. Thank you! For God and My Country.

 

Jonathan Kivumbi, Educationist-communication and language skills analyst. 0770880185 [email protected]

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect our editorial stance.

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