The Ministry of Education and Sports wants the government to focus on vaccinating teachers when the country receives more doses of covid-19 vaccines.
A source at the education ministry who preferred anonymity says that officials have already tabled the idea as part of their draft plan in the event the lockdown is lifted and schools are allowed to reopen.
“Vaccination of teachers and non-teaching staff in schools has been prioritized and suggestions have been made that government ring-fences the jabs for this category of people since the protection of teachers is essential for schools to reopen safely,” the source noted.
Dr Joyce Moriku Kaduccu, the State Minister in charge of Primary Education confirms that the proposal has been discussed and higher authorities have made it clear that schools cannot reopen before vaccinating teachers.
Already, Uganda National Teachers’ Union and UNICEF had suggested a similar idea appealing to teachers to actively seek and get the vaccination when the new supplies of vaccine become available.
Although the government had prioritized the vaccination of teachers in the first phase of vaccination efforts, many teachers shunned the exercise.
Statistics indicate that only 110,000 of the targeted 550,000 teachers have taken the vaccine. This means that 440,000 (over 80 percent) of the teachers in Uganda are yet to receive a single dose of vaccine.
Uganda expects to receive some 586,080 doses of AstraZeneca and Sinovac Covid vaccines at the end of this week.
“If the ministry’s (ministry of education) proposal is accepted by the cabinet, the said doses will be enough to cover the first jab of the 440,000 teachers. And if vaccination is handled fast, partial reopening of schools can be set around late August or September,” a source added.
Besides teachers, Dr Kaduccu notes that they are another suggestion of vaccinating all students about 18 years who are mainly in a post-secondary education institution.
The minister says they are also looking at strengthening covid19 surveillance by introducing random testing in schools.
Poor inspection and surveillance were listed as the main cause of covid19 infection in schools during the first reopening. Many experts argued that during that time, the ministry relied most on the school task force leading to compromise when headteachers concealed suspected covid19 cases detected in their schools.
Although the suggestion on random testing is convincing as one of the means to prevent concealment of cases, sources at the ministry note that it may be costly a factor that might fail its implementation.
Meanwhile, the uncertainty of the period of lockdown and the trajectory of the disease within the country has compromised the ability of the education ministry to put together a final plan for the recovery of the academic year. But, the government is more likely to reopen schools in a staggered manner with a priority put on catch-up and curriculum coverage.
A source from the ministry notes that under this arrangement, learners will be completing their respective 2020 class syllabus. Before closure, only candidates and pupils in P.4 and P.5 had finished their syllabus and were waiting to be promoted.
The education of over 15 million Ugandan learners has already been disrupted by school closures which started in March 2020. Educationists and other experts in various fields have already predicted profound implications for the future of the learners and the society should restriction on physical classes be prolonged. URN