Your Excellency, the President, more is clarification needed, we need to balance the equation, starting with education and transport
KAMPALA —If there is anything that has challenged, confused, and threatened mankind in the past 2020 years, it is this deadly virus, commonly described as the “Corona Virus”. Like one eye witness said during the course of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, “This revolution found us sleeping like a hopeless sleeping virgin”.
There is no doubt, this virus caught each one of us, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status, etc. unaware.
The damage caused by this virus in the United States, is far beyond the damage that was caused by the American plague of the 16th Century. By and large, the 1918-1920, Spanish Influenza is considered the deadliest pandemic in world history. Approximately 500 million people fell victim from the South Seas of the North Pole, and studies indicate that a fifth of these people were wiped by this pandemic.
Nonetheless, the Spanish Influenza pandemic did not ever confuse and threaten the world to the magnitude of Corona Virus.
First, the medical scientists began by giving us a wrong name for the disease caused by this virus.
To-date, I am still wondering how a given type of virus causes a disease that does not differ from the virus, itself. Surely, how does “Corona Virus” lead to the outbreak of “Coronavirus Disease, 2019″? According to the world’s most renowned medical experts which kind of disease is this?” So, according to these experts does it mean that there exists no difference between the terms “virus” and “disease?” Does this, therefore, mean that the “Human Immune Virus” causes “Human Immune Virus Disease?” Arguably, there exists no disease, world-over, known as “Corona Virus Disease, 2019”.
However, it should be categorically stated that in December, 2019, a very deadly virus (the most deadly ever, perhaps) known as “Corona”, was detected in China, and given the acronym, “CoViD-19”, literally meaning, “Corona Virus Detected, 2019”, and not “Corona Virus Disease, 2019”, per se. The Baganda chose to describe the virus, “Ssenyiga Omukambwe”. Hmmmm! One wonders how a given type of virus translates into the “deadly flu”.
Before coming up with this name, did the people behind it bother to establish the difference between the two concepts, “virus” and “flu/influenza”? In a bid to counter the spreading of the virus, the medical experts came up with a number of measures, among which included, “social distancing”, where people are required to maintain a physical distance of 4 metres between each other.
Semantically, the term, “social”, in simple terms, means co-operating/interacting. This means, by advocating for social distancing, we are actually telling people to be in close contact with one another. Certainly, you can vividly see how the virus has confused mankind. We are speaking things in reverse; instead of telling people to maintain, “anti-social distancing”, we are busy telling them to maintain “social distancing”.
But it is hard to blame anyone for the mess, for as earlier stated, the virus caught everyone, unaware. While it was so easy for the President and his team to push the country into lockdown, lifting the same might prove to be a daunting task, if we are to balance the equation. Honestly speaking, if it wasn’t for the wise decision taken by the President to disperse the huge communities, there is no doubt, what we have seen in countries like Italy, Britain, Spain, China, and the United States of America, among others, definitely, we would have equally witnessed in Uganda. Your Excellency, we truly appreciate! But like Mandela, once said, “After climbing a huge hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”.
Truth be, Your Excellency, amongst the biggest hills that you and your team of experts have to climb now, is the hill of “lifting the lockdown”, without stepping on anybody’s toes. I will quote the words of Martin Luther King (Jr). “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever adversely affects one directly, adversely affects all, indirectly”.
Your Excellency, based on this quote, do you really find it worthwhile to open schools/education institutions in 90 districts, while the same remain closed in 45 districts? In your own opinion, Mr. President, do you see justice prevailing? Needless to emphasize the fact that the adversely affected districts still represent the biggest percentage of students who have missed on the ongoing e-learning programme organized by the Education Ministry, of course, for obvious reasons. Notice that these are the same districts that have posted the poorest grades in the national exams, as a routine, save for a few like Rukungiri.
Are these children also going to sit for the same exams like their counterparts in the other 90 districts, under the same terms and conditions? If so, with due respect, Your Excellency, don’t you think it will be more rewarding for us as a country to halt the lifting of the lockdown on education, until such a time when we are conc. sure that every intended beneficiary meant to be in school, is actually in school studying? This way, justice would have been done to all, and, definitely, the equation would have been balanced. While support the idea of focusing at students in their final year of study, at all levels of study, I humbly beg to differ, on the issue of opening up for some, while still keeping others under lockdown. Still, Your Excellency, don’t you think we are taking a very high risk by lifting the lockdown on education in June, prior to coming up with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that the sector is going to follow in a bid to guard against spreading of the virus, amongst its stakeholders, and the country, at large? If women/young girls are playing around with these truck drivers, who, according to records available from the Ministry of Health, represent over 70% of our total number of patients, “What gives us the confidence to believe that our female students, including female staff members, by the way, are not part of the equation?
In your latest remarks, Your Excellency, you warned schools against administering end of term one examinations; honestly speaking, Your Excellency, why are we still talking of term one, at a time when we are almost half-way, the year? Why don’t we plan for only one more term, say of 4 months, more so, for S.4 and S.6 students, aware of the fact that majority of our parents are already financially constrained? Don’t you think, Your Excellency, if the Education Ministry comes out with any programme beyond one term, we are likely to register a significant number of schools drop-outs at every level of instruction?
Your Excellency, did you know that many parents cannot even be in position to raise the registration fees for UNEB and other examining bodies? How is government going to address this problem? Your Excellency, do you think by letting some people described as essential workers, continue with business, since March 18, 2020, and lifting the lockdown for others, while leaving many others carry on with the lockdown, it is worthwhile to open schools, yet the children of all these attain the same education? Your Excellency, I am of the view that, to balance off our equation, we either lift the lockdown for all (which, of course, is very risky), or we stay put the current status quo, particularly on education, until such a time when we are sure, every parent is at work, and can, in one way, or another, fend for their children. Your Excellency, I can guarantee with certainty, the imbalance created by the lifting of the lockdown on education institutions, is going to cause a lot of anxiety amongst parents and their children, in particular, and, this might water all the registered achievements, from the time education institutions were closed, to-date. With all due respect, Your Excellency, I humbly request you, together with your team, to, if possible, keenly study this decision, and come up with appropriate amends, were possible.
Your Excellency, did you know, there is hardly any secondary school teacher teaching in one school? And that some of them commute from Kampala to the districts, already marked as danger zones? And that with or without the most convenient means of transport (taxis, buses), these people are more than determined to move to those districts, for business? “Some of us who wish to move to the border districts will devise means. For example, if I want to move to Busia, I will board a taxi up to the last town in Bugiri, of Muwayo, and then foot, up to Busia”, said one teacher, who preferred anonymity. “For me I will simply hire a boda-boda, and move wherever I want, since it is okay to move using the same, provided you are not carrying anyone”, another teacher, who equally preferred anonymity, echoed.
Your Excellency, young as they are, I strongly believe the P.7 pupils have been tormented and psychologically tortured enough by the virus and the lockdown, in particular. And I can guarantee with certainty, a number of them will take time to heal from the side effects suffered, as a result of this virus. Against this background, I strongly suggest that we assess these pupils using the work covered between P.1 and P.6. This way, these pupils can go back to school for at least two months, and then sit for their final exams (Refer to my very publication, titled, “Word of counsel to the Education Minister: It is still early to declare, 2020, a dead year, academically”, for details.) Your Excellency, with only P.7 at school (which is, obviously, the right thing), do you think it is appropriate to send back student teachers in their final year, to their respective colleges? If so, how will they then sit for their practical exam, i.e., “school practice”? The same applies to students in national teachers’ colleges and those at the University? It is obvious, with only two classes, S.4 and S.6, school practice cannot go on, implying that lifting the lockdown for students pursuing their career in education, is worthless.
The students studying tourism cannot also carry on with their internship, since the tourism industry has not yet been fully re-opened. This means, it is a waste of time and resources for them to go back to their respective centres of study. There is also another category of students that has accumulated re-takes, “How are these going to be catered for”? Your Excellency, already there are students, specifically, post-graduates who have to conduct their field research in the danger zone districts. They cannot do their research elsewhere, whatsoever, since this would imply repeating the entire process afresh. Does this, therefore, mean that they, too, will not graduate in the time specified? Your Excellency, after organizations laying off their contracted staff, and instructing others to work from home, “Do you really see these organizations opening up for internship/industrial training, for final year students?
In fact, I am reliably informed, some companies have already called off industrial training, this year, implying that, a number of students are already out of the graduation equation. By and large, Your Excellency, it is not practical at all to lift the lockdown for finalists in higher institutions of learning, including University, on June 4, 2020, as earlier stated, unless the aforementioned concerns are addressed.
Your Excellency, with all due respect, I find it unfit, to lift the lockdown on education, and leave dealers in scholastic materials continue with the lockdown. A number of schools in Kampala, and beyond largely depend on the stationery hub at Nasser Road. So, unless business here is open as well, some schools might find it hard to operate, as expected. Your Excellency, what mechanism are you going to apply to maintain the curfew time (6:30am to 7:00pm), after lifting the lockdown on both education and public/private vehicles? For instance, post-graduate students study in the evening, usually, from 5:00-10:00pm, and there is no way this time can be adjusted, whatsoever. Let us also look at a student who has left school at 6:00pm, or even 5:00pm, and has to walk a distance of 10km, or so, “Can he/she actually catch up with the 7:00pm limit time for the curfew”? Your Excellency, don’t you think by sending vehicles back on the road, automatically, curfew comes to an end (and, this is extremely dangerous at this time)? The causes of traffic jam are not within the control of the road user. This, therefore, means, lifting the lockdown on private/public cars, automatically, brings the curfew to an end. Your Excellency, I am humbly appealing to you, to study this matter further. Otherwise, should you bring an end to the curfew, prematurely, some of us might be forced to seek for refugee at the nearby police station, for purposes of safety and security. Your Excellency, don’t you think it would be worthwhile to re-open education institutions after all the medical personnel, for instance, school nurses have all been given specialized training on how to handle CoViD-19 related cases? In fact, even teachers/educators need this training. Your Excellency, don’t you think it must have been an oversight for you to re-open hotels, and leave bars closed? Could there be any rational hotel that operates with a bar? I am still wondering the mechanism that is going to be employed by government to bar hotels from operating their gyms, swimming pools, and saunas, aware of the fact that these hotels are usually well fenced.
Now that the Germany Bundesliga is on, and hotels re-opened, there is no doubt, many people, especially the youth have to storm these facilities, and in the process, all the days we have spent in lockdown might be put to waste. In fact, opening hotels, equally means re-opening bars and guest houses. If a person can catch the virus from a guest house/lodge, so they can from a hotel, and vice-versa. Your Excellency, I humbly request you to kindly find time, of course, with your advisory team, and keenly study this matter. Your Excellency, you talked of general merchandise shops beginning their operations on May 26, 2020; unfortunately, you didn’t specify these shops.
For the record many are already operating, since some were not closed, while others have already been re-opened. So, which shops are you referring to, exactly, Your Excellency? Your Excellency, why is it that a family, of say, 8 people, that does everything together under the same roof/compound, cannot move in the same car, at the time of moving? Does this mean that there are high chances of catching the virus, while in the vehicle, than at home? While the idea of moving with not more than 3 people in a private car is highly welcome, I believe it still needs to be studied further, and where possible, necessary adjustments be made. Must a person driving a Vitz, Toyota-Premio, or Starlet (which cars carry a maximum of 5 people) carry 3 people, while the counterpart driving a Super Custom (which carries a maximum of 11 people) also move along with only 3 people? Your Excellency, I feel this arrangement does not augur well, especially for parents with big families. Some of these people bought bigger cars for purposes of easing movement with their families, especially in regard to transporting their children to, and fro, school.
Your Excellency, I thought court directed all Members of Parliament to return back the Ugx. 20M obtained under unclear circumstances to government; “How then, does money returned back to government later translate into somebody’s personal contribution”? “But why do you read the UGX. 20M as a donation of MPs to the task force, eeeh, yet are supposed to return back the money, as per the court order”? Asks Ochola.
Your Excellency, if you deprived maama Janet of her Ugx. 1.4M, and she didn’t complain, let all those Members of Parliament, either do what you did (give away 50%) of their salary, or withdraw their names from the contribution list, other than confusing the citizenry.
Your Excellency, your guidance is equally needed here. If I take what does not belong to me, and I am directed to return back to the rightful owner, or their next of kin, I cannot, again claim its ownership. Like Martin Luther King (Jr), said, “If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical, propagandists, characterized by immoral acts. Be careful, ‘brethren’. Be careful, teachers”.
This is the reason this entire write-up has zeroed more on Education-related issues, than anything else. I pray the aforementioned concerns are addressed, to the satisfaction of the citizenry. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy”, Martin Luther King (Jr). Your Excellency, thank you so much for holding the bull by its horns, since March 18, 2020. We are grateful! I have no doubt,
Your Excellency, just as you convincingly addressed the issue of the face masks as relayed in my open letter to you, titled, “Let’s ban, and burn all the masks on market, plus those already in use”, I still believe you will equally attend to me issues put forward in this brief, for the good of the Pearl of Africa.
There is an urgent need to balance off the equation, so as not to water down the efforts put by all stakeholders, in as far as countering the spreading of this virus is concerned.
Jonathan Kivumbi, Educationist, 0770880185/0702303190. For God and My Country!