EDUCATION

Students Association welcomes January school reopening, launch initiative to keep schools safe for learners

Uganda National Students Association, one of the bodies that deals with the plight of students has committed to supporting government’s school reopening efforts

KAMPALA —The Uganda National Students Association (UNSA), the national umbrella organization of all students in Uganda has unveiled a new campaign, dubbed ‘Keep Schools Open and Safe’ an initiative aimed at supplementing government ahead of the much sought after school reopening in
January 2022.

Millions of Ugandan children have stayed home for 22 months as schools have remained closed due to COVID-19 amid measures authorities say are necessary to safeguard the students’ health.

This, however, has made schools the longest-closed in the world due to the pandemic, according to a UNICEF report.

Global data tracking by the UN agency on the educational impact of COVID-19, shows that schools in Uganda have been shut for close to 22 months and counting.

Classes have been out in the Uganda since March 18 last year, with an announcement made by President Yoweri Museveni, totaling nearly 90 weeks.

By comparison, schools were closed for more than 40 weeks in only 12 other African countries — all of which have since resumed in-person teaching — while in India, which has a larger population than all of Africa combined, classes were suspended for 73 weeks.

First lady and Education Minister Janet Museveni previously said the continued closure of educational institutions over COVID-19 is meant to protect young people from the virus.

However, schools, closed since March last year owing to the pandemic, will reopen in January regardless of currently low vaccination uptake, President Museveni recently announced.

UNSA leaders speak out

Mr. Yusuf Welunga, UNSA President said that the association leaders are happy with the decision taken by Government to open all learning institutions for all learners in January 2022 and noted that the association has sought to join hands with government and partners with an Initiative ‘Keeping Schools Open and Safe’.

“It is important that once the schools are opened up, they run without further disruptions, irrespective of the Covid19 state in the country. Any additional closure of schools will wipe out almost all the gains made in Uganda’s education sector and economy over the last 20 years,” Welunga said.

A head of school reopening next year. Welunga says that UNSA and its partners such as Mother’s Union, Scouts and Girl Guides Association, St John’s Ambulance, and Family Comfort Foundation are ready to work with government to ensure that education institutions safely reopen and keep open even in the face of new variants

He also revealed UNSA’s commitment to mobilizing a whopping 15 million learners across the country to support Government’s plan of keeping schools safe.

He noted that despite COVID-19 epidemiological situation and the evolving understanding of the risks posed by the new virus variants, schools must always be the last to close and first to reopen when it is safe to do so, noting that reopening schools for in-person learning is a critical step to ensure every child can access a quality education that builds and accredits the skills children and adolescents need – including in literacy and numeracy.

Key among the strategies proposed to support the Keep Schools Open and Safe’ initiative alive include Vaccination, School Based Rapid Testing for Covid 19, School Based Care for Mild Cases and Intensive School based Surveillance for Covid.

UNSA also suggests that high risk schools should try as much to intensify screen and testing students as they report back to school in early January.

On its part, he said, UNSA, will use medical training institutions to offer training in rapid covid testing and basic care management but also dvocate and support training all school nurses in covid testing, basic Covid management and Covid Vaccination.

He said they will also mobilize upto 1,000 Information Technology students to support Real Time Data Capture and analysis.

UNSA also appealed to all stakeholders to support this Keep schools open and safe campaign.

The Uganda National Students Association(UNSA) was established by the Education Act 2008 with a mandate of championing students interests across the country.

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