5,000 schools might close down over Covid-19

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Kibiro primary school in Kigorobya Sub-county, Hoima District closed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Credit: David Livingstone Ayebale.

Kampala

About 5,000 educational establishments will be permanently closed down for failing to measure up to the guidelines set to combat coronavirus in Uganda.

Mr Rogers Matte, the manager of Macroeconomic Planning at the National Planning Authority (NPA) told Parliament’s National Economy Committee today that both private schools and higher institutions of learning will be permanently closed for failing to stay afloat.

Submitting the Authority’s views on the impact of Covid-19 on the economy to the Committee, Mr Matte said that some of the measures announced by President Yoweri Museveni to contain the spread of coronavirus like closure of educational institutions have led to loss of learning.

NPA says the closure of schools and training institutions has left 15 million learners unable to continue with normal learning. The Authority adds that although the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders’ intervention to ensure continuity of learning, only 30 % of the total student population countrywide are able to access learning materials.

Mr Matte told parliament that about 24 % of students mainly from the poorest quintile are preoccupied in gardens providing labour in planting and chasing away vermin without any time left for them to revise their notes, putting their future further at stake.

“This is likely to affect the implementation of the curriculum and acquisition of the defined competences in specific classes, increase dropouts, increased teenage pregnancies and early marriages. Ultimately, this will impact the quality and quantity of the country’s human capital,” Mr Matte explained.

He continued that it is anticipated that without significant support, about 3,507 (1749 urban and 1,758 rural) poor private primary schools are at risk of forced closure due to loss of revenue arising from the Covid-19 containment measures.

“Consequently, the future of approximately 1,534,000 primary school children remains uncertain. At secondary level, a total of 834 (472 urban and 360 rural) poor private schools are likely to face closure due to financial distress thereby putting the future of 390,000 learners at stake,” Mr Matte said.

NPA added that the situation is more precarious for higher education as 80% of private universities have already communicated financial distress to their staff.

“Consequently, about 1131 of full time staff in private universities are likely to lose their jobs and or get suspended contracts. Similarly, 106,336 students attending these institutions are at risk of dropping out and or taking dead years, should these institutions close. While pre-school subsector which is 100% privately provided is at higher risk than the rest of the subsector.”

The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Syda Bbumba, faulted NPA for falling short of making recommendations on relief package to private school teachers who are hit most with the closure of schools.

“What are you recommending for teachers in private schools because we need their services yet they need to survive,” Ms Bbumba, who doubles as the Nakaseke North lawmaker, asked.

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