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EBOLA: Ugandan Schools ‘Likely to Close Early’

Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni and wife First Lady Janet Museveni

Uganda’s Ministry of Health has asked officials at First Lady Janet Kataaha Kainembabazi Museveni’s Ministry of Education and Sports to shorten the third term of the current academic calendar year as a way of preventing the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)T.

The outbreak of Ebola was confirmed in Uganda in September 2022 in the district of Mubende. The viral haemorrhagic fever has since spreads to other districts such as Bunyangabu, Kyegegwa, Kassanda and the congested Ugandan capital Kampala.

There have also been fears that the disease could spread in schools, one of the many institutions of higher concentration, where it can wreak havoc. Last week, the Ministry of Health confirmed that some students had contracted Ebola from their uncle who died of the same disease and had been to the district of Kassanda. The Education Ministry swung in action and banned all visiting days and leavers’ parties in schools. (See Details Here).

Now, the Ministry of Health has advised Janet Museveni’s Education docket to compel schools to close earlier than they had planned. The current term was expected to end in early December but Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng wants the third term cut shot so that most of the learners can go home.

In Aceng’s view, it should only be candidates sitting final exams set by the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) staying at school until the Ebola situation has been dealt with: the rest of the learners should do their promotional exams and go home.

O-level or Senior Four candidates are already doing their final exams for the award of the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE); Primary Seven candidates are expected to start Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) next week; while Senior Six or A-level candidates will start their Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) papers towards the end of this month, according to Uneb. (See full official timetables Here).

Minister Aceng’s argument is that by freeing schools and remaining with only candidate classes, it will be easier to manage any cases of Ebola or even beef up implementation of prevention guidelines.

“It would be extremely nice if Ministry of Education considered early exams so that then we are only left with the candidates because we know that the timeframe for candidates to do their exams has already been fixed. The fewer learners at school, the easier for us to carry out surveillance and ensure that the learners are safe,” explained Minister Aceng.

“It is extremely difficult for children to maintain their social distancing but if if we have infection prevention materials, if we have jik, we have chlorine solution, we ensure that surfaces are clean, the lavatories are clean and disinfected frequently, then we can be relatively sure that our children are in a safe environment.”

This publication has learnt that a number of schools were already planning to end the current term early, but for different reasons: economic. Due to the high prices of goods such as maize flour and beans, schools which did not increase fees are finding it difficult to feed students.

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Until her proposal has been adopted by Janet Museveni’s Education Ministry, Minister Aceng has called on schools to ensure mandatory temperature screening, as well as hand washing with soap and water. Meanwhile, two districts of Uganda remain under an Ebola lockdown, with fears that Kampala would be locked soon. (Read Story Here).

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