US Mission launches group study programs for early grade learners

By Gloria Nakiyimba
The United States Mission in Uganda has launched a study groups program to provide continuity of learning for Ugandan early grade learners who are not able to attend school due to school closures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The study groups program is providing early grade reading materials and instructional support to 17,500 learners in Primary 1 through Primary 4 at home and in community-based study groups to help Ugandan children to access learning while schools remain closed and help prepare them for a return to school planned for June.

“When children acquire early grade reading skills in primary school, it improves their chances for success later in life,” U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown said while launching the study groups program at Lake Victoria Primary School in Entebbe.

The study groups program supports Uganda Ministry of Education and Sports’ COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan and is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Integrated Child and Youth Development (ICYD) project.

The $148 million ICYD project will work with the Government of Uganda to improve the quality of education service delivery in 50 districts and reach more than 4 million children over five years with early grade reading support.

The activity will also train 42,000 teachers, provide 5.5 million copies of teaching and learning materials, and strengthen district government capacity to effectively supervise schools.

UNEB welcomes requests to verify documents

By Robert Segawa

The Uganda National Examination Board has revealed that they have received a number of petitions from various people requesting for verification of academic papers for some elected leaders in the just concluded elections .

According to UNEB spokesperson, Jennifer Kalule Musamba, “we welcome petitions from people with queries on academic documents of all people.” She adds that the requests are still coming in.

Kalule revealed that among the petitions they have is one in which an aspirant for Kawempe North MP, Sulaiman Kidandala requested for verification of academic documents for MP elect,Muhammad Ssegirinya.

Kalule says that even though the law doesn’t mandate them to ask politicians to first present their documents for verification, they can do the so on request.

She further revealed that UCE exams are progressing well,adding that they are now turning focus on PLE exams starting on Monday.
Over 740,000 candidates will sit for their examinations in 14000 centers.

Girls encouraged to pay more attention to science subjects

By Phiona Namukasa

The Executive Director Electricity Regulatory Authority, a government agency that ensures sustainable electricity supply Eng. Ziria Tibalwa Waako has appealed to parents to encourage the girl child to take science subjects so that they increasingly join the technical sector.

Eng. Ziria says,”science subjects are known to be taken by the boy child yet girls can also handle them if they are strongly guided and empowered by their parents.”

She adds that parents should encourage and inspire the girl child that so that they can also serve in science oriented positions.

Eng. Ziria encouraged women that as they celebrate this day to reflect on how best they can improve their lives if they are to go forward.

Many times women spend too much time on less productive matters which hinders their independence.

She also encouraged men to always support women in any developmental activity they do because it is the only way they can strengthen the family.

Association of Nursery School teachers fault Govt for allowing International schools to operate

By Alice Lubwama

The association of Nursery Teachers known as Early Childhood Development Association of Uganda has faulted government for allowing international elementary institutions to re-open at the expense of local nursery schools and yet no single toddler has succumbed to COVID-19.

In a petition to the speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, the leader of the association Manuela Mulondo said that according to world Health Organisation and scientific researches, it’s not true that children under 6 years old are prone to COVID-19 respiratory complications as claimed by Minister of education Janet Museveni in her February speech to the Nation about opening infant schools.

Mulondo add that they have conducted a sample study in countries where nursery schools have been fully opened like S.Africa, Thailand, Denmark and Egypt and studies indicated  that children below the age of six years haven’t been affected or died.

“Children less than 10 years old were less infectious than older ones and students to student’s spread was rarer while transmission among staff to staff was most common.” Mulondo said

They now appeal to Government to reverse its earlier decision and reopen the pre-primary schools so the children of the common person can also study.

One of the petitioners Estella Kabagaya also noted that the indefinite closure of the nursery schools has heavily impacted on women who work in markets with their children who would be in schools.

The Education Minister Janet Museveni said nursery schools handling children aged three to six will remain closed throughout the COVID-19 season.

She explained that this particular age bracket doesn’t wear face masks and are at high risk of contracting respiratory infections like corona virus, but the association says that the study conducted showed that the ability for young children to wear or not wear a mask in this age group plays a limited role of transmission of COVID-19.

National Curriculum Development center granted more powers

BY EDWIN MUHUMUZA

The Parliamentary Committee on Education and Sports has proposed that the National Curriculum Development Center [Amendment] Bill, 2020 be passed into law, subject to the proposed amendments.

This following the legal, institutional and global challenges that emerged since the enactment of the Principal Act in 1973.

Since then, the law had never been amended and as such it was not in conformity with the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act 2015 in as far as the budget process is concerned.

The committee observed that there was a need to include the employers, professional bodies and the Private Sector in the membership of the Center’s Governing Council since they are now key players in the Education Sector.

Additionally, there is a need for the National Curriculum Development Center to vet and review alternative curricula to ensure that it is in line with the traditions, norms and beliefs of Uganda as a nation.

This amid concerns that education institutions offering Diploma and Certificate courses except universities were developing curricular without approval from the National Curriculum Development Center, existence of role conflicts between National Curriculum Development Center and National Council for Higher Education in as far as curricula development for certificate and Diploma courses is concerned.

The committee chaired by Pallisa County MP, Jacob Opolot has therefore recommended that the NCDC should be the lead government agency in curriculum development and review, and all activities related to curriculum development.

Relatedly, there were calls from members that the Universities and tertiary institutions should only develop courses for undergraduate and post graduate courses of study following an amendment to the University ad Tertiary institutions Act 2001.

The National Curriculum Development Center [Amendment] Bill, 2020 was tabled for first reading on 24th June, 2020 by the Minister of State for Education in charge of Higher Education, Hon. Muyingo John Chrysostom, and was referred to the Committee on Education and Sports in accordance with Rule 128 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.

Stakeholders included the Ministry of Education and Sports, The National Curriculum Development Center [NCDC], Uganda National Examinations Board [UNEB],Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board [UBTEB] Uganda National Council for Higher Education [NCH],The Vice Chancellors’ Forum, Association of Uganda Secondary School Head Teachers, Federation of Uganda Employers [FUE] and Education Accelerators Limited [EAL] , a Consortium of schools that use alternative curricula – the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) Curriculum, used in over 100 countries the world over

Schools for non candidate classes to open soon

By Moses Kidandi

Cabinet has resolved to reopen Education Institutions to Non-Candidate learners as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The cabinet has made some recommendations to this effect as a means of curbing the transmission of the virus.

That the Education Institutions will be allowed to open for non-candidate classes in a phased manner. This will ensure compliance with COVID 19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

That the pre-primary schools should will not be re-opened because Learners in this category cannot observe the SOPs and are prone to respiratory infections including COVID-19. In addition, most of the pre-primary schools are day schools hence prone to infections due to interface between the Learners, teachers and Parents.

Leaders at the Ministry of Education and Sports; and Health will undertake a countrywide tour of schools and Institutions to ascertain their preparedness to reopen for non-candidate classes.

In order to complete the academic year and ensure progression, the semi-candidate classes (P6, S3 and S5) should report back to school in the short term and study (in shifts where necessary) with the Candidate classes.

Given that PLE will be completed on 31st March, 2021 and UCE on 6th April, 2021, there will be more space in schools, when candidates leave, to enable the other classes report back and study to complement home schooling.

For the classes studying in shifts, Teachers will be guided to work through the home-schooling materials with a view of explaining and clarifying concepts and correcting self-study work done by Learners at home.

Promotion to the next class will be based on attendance and continuous assessment of class work and assignments.

UNEB allows pregnant girls to register for exams

By Alice Lubwama

Uganda National Examination Board has allowed pregnant girls to register for final exams. While releasing the program for registration of candidate classes today at media center, the executive secretary UNEB Dan Odongo said that many girls who got pregnant during the COVID-19 lock down are traumatized and denying them the opportunity to sit their final examinations would be double jeopardy.

Odongo also said that if many girls are not allowed to sit for exams because they are pregnant then this will also derail the gains of gender inclusiveness attained so far in reducing the disparity between girls and boys registering for their final examinations and finishing a given academic cycle.

The examination body has also warned head teachers not to inflate the registration fees for candidate classes as the registration process starts today.

Odongo says that the board has not increased the fees from UGX34000 for PLE, UGX164,000 for UCE and UGX186000 for UACE candidates.
He has also strongly warned district education officers against fraudulent practice of registering pupils from private primary schools in government schools as UPE candidates.

He said that some education officers have been getting registration fees from these candidates and do not remit the money to UNEB.
UNEB also urges the schools to ensure that the candidates register with in five weeks as those who register late will not be allowed.
He says that government will only pay registration fees for candidates under the government programs of Universal Primary Education (UPE), Universal Secondary Education (USE), and Universal Post ‘O’ Level Education and Training (UPOLET).

Education and health ministers sued over phased school reopening

By Sania Babirye

The first lady Janet Kataha Museveni has been sued in the high court in her capacity as minister of education and sports over the reopening of schools for candidate classes due 15th of this month.

Mrs Museveni together with the health minister Jane Ruth Acheng by the Executive Director of Human Rights Defenders Association Uganda (HURIDA -Ug) Tugume Gideon.

Tugume wants court to issue an order blocking the reopening of schools until government pays school fees and requirements for all finalists at all levels of education.

In documents filed in the high court, the petitioner, further asks court to compel the ministry of health take responsibility for any disease related to COVID-19 if any student is affected before reopening the Schools.

He claims that by the time government closed schools in March this year, the country had not registered any COVID-19 positive cases yet since the the country is crippling with a over 9000 COVID-19 positive cases with death and that reopening schools now is poor planning, illegal and discriminatory since most parents businesses such as bars, open markets, events , music, health clubs among others which are their main source of employment are still not yet opened which is likely to make many candidates miss out school.

The petitioner also claims that they tried to engage the two ministers but in vain forcing them to seek legal redress and that reopening of some schools with such a big number of children is against COVID-19 ministerial guidelines issued to the public and likely to put school going children exposed to COVID-19.

These want Court to compel government to financially support parents affected by COVID-19 lock down by paying school fees , registration fees and requirements for all students in both private and government institutions.

The two ministers have been summoned to file their defenses within 15 days before the case is set for hearing by court..

Brac master card foundation to boost businesses affected by COVID-19

By Alice Lubwama

Brac Uganda bank has received funding worth 4.6 million dollars from Master card foundation to support clients whose Business have been affected by COVID-19 pandemic and support on line education for over 2000 learners.

While launching the master card foundation COVID-19 recovery and resilience program in Kampala the managing director Brac Uganda Jimmy Adiga said that the money will mainly support women entrepreneurs who have been hit hard by COVID-19. So that they can have new working capital to revive their business.

Adiga also says that part of this money will be extended to learners in form buying them tablets and data so that teachers can provide them with learning material to enable them continue studying at home.

Adiga says the funds will also be used to procure health preventive facilities such as hand washing materials and sanitizers in public places such as markets because this where majority of their clients operate.

The head business development and strategy Brac Uganda Alemi William Kenyi says over 5400 clients will benefit from the funds at a
discounted rate of 15% to help the them kick start their businesses that closed down due to the pandemic.

He says that the survey they conducted amongst their clients revealed that 31% of the clients wanted support to push their businesses.

Kole MP Okello asks government to regulate school fees

By Alice Lubwama

Kole North legislator Bonny Okello has appealed to Government to come up with standard fees for public secondary schools so that students can complete their education.

In an interview with the lawmaker, he noted that many bright children have dropped out of school after primary seven because their parents cannot afford to pay the high fees in government schools.

Okello says majority of the parents have been in the IDP camps for a long time and depend on subsistence farming so they cannot raise 400,000 shillings charged per term.

“Right now an average government school pays around UGX400,000 per term which is quiet pricey for an ordinary person in the constituency to raise that money”. Okello said

The MP says seed schools were meant to support those areas which are disadvantaged but they are also charge exorbitant fees.

The mp says that the children would have joined the technical and vocational institutions after primary seven but there is no single institution in his constituency.

Okello adds that more girls were dropping out of schools to pave way for the boys to continue with their studies.

According to census report 2014, only 16000 people with had O`Level in Kole district considering a population of 40,000 people.