On Monday January 10, 2022, the government of Uganda opened up schools for over 15 million learners after nearly two years. In 2020, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni ordered for closure of schools following the outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic. The closure according to Mr. Museveni peddled to curbing the spread of virus.
Seven months later, the government reopened schools in a phased manner prioritizing candidate classes; however it was forced to close all the learning institutions in June 2021 as the country went into lockdown following a second wave of COVID-19.
In his address on 31 December 2021, the president said all schools will open so long as teachers and learners above 18 years are vaccinated. Museveni however warned that the country will be forced to go into another lockdown if Covid-19 cases surge. The parents and educationists felt relieved after a long spell when children are at home. Currently, there are 155443 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 3361 deaths in Uganda.
Earlier this year, the Minister for Health, Jane Ruth Aceng confirmed that the country is in the third wave of Covid-19 following the confirmation of the Omicron variant. The Omicron variant has been designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) and presents with some deletions. The South African variant has a high number of mutations (32) in its spike protein, and preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection, when compared with other variants of concern.
Recently, Mr. Emmanuel Ainebyona, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health said the country has received 30.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and they have so far dispatched 16 million doses to the different vaccination centers around the country. Over 1.7 million people have been fully vaccinated against the virus.
To keep up in the third Covid-19 wave as the government opened up schools, the community and the teaching institutions must adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which include frequent hand washing, Keeping social distance and wearing facemasks. Schools must acquire infrared thermometers/temperature guns, put up handwashing facilities, sanitizers, soap, facemasks and isolation rooms.
Regaining the time lost will not be easy and ensuring this is essential not just for children, schools must provide quality education or risk seeking Ugandans lagging behind regional peers. The government must create a system to ensure that schools remain open and learning continues without any further interruptions.
The government should ensure nationwide School-Based Surveillance training, sensitize the community about the SOPs and continue mobilizing teachers, parents and every one above 18 years to get vaccinated.
In tandem, Schools must form surveillance teams of students, senior management members and teachers to be able to fully monitor adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures at the schools and report any student with Covid-19 related symptoms for testing and further management.