By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
Minister for ICT and National Guidance Dr. Chris Baryomunsi has said that government is not sorry for keeping schools closed since March 2020. Uganda is believed to have kept schools closed longest in the world.
Dr. Chris Baryomunsi said that managing the Covid-19 pandemic in Uganda has been informed by science and government will not be coerced into reopening schools if it is against the scientific evidence.
Baryomunsi made these remarks while appearing on NBS Frontline, Thursday evening.
“We have no apologies for having schools closed. Opening has been informed by science, and we are tagging it on vaccines,” Baryomunsi said.
According to data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) that was released last month, Uganda is the only country on the African continent where schools remain fully closed for close to two years despite registering low Covid-19 infections and deaths.
The UNICEF report tracked the educational impact of Covid-19 globally and it showed that schools in Uganda have been closed for more than 77 weeks, close to 20 months, and counting.
Baryomunsi said that government’s only priority is safety of learners and their parents and will therefore not give in to pressure.
Baryomunsi added that Uganda has managed to have few COVID-19 related deaths because of the measures they put in place.
“Other countries are grappling with so many waves, we have had only two. We have had fewer deaths. The latest figures show we are at 1% or even below. The measures have been quite impactful,” Baryomunsi added.
Members of the civil society have for months urged government to reopen schools immediately, saying that young girls are getting pregnant from home, and teachers have lost their livelihood.
President Museveni in a recent address said that young girls are better off getting pregnant than dying due to COVID-19 at school. The President also re-affirmed that he will not be pressured into reopening schools, saying a dead person will have no chance to study.
The President allowed high institutions of learning to reopen on November 1, 2021 and tagged school reopening to vaccinating a sizeable number of students and teachers, by January 2022.
Ssemujju Nganda, who is the FDC spokesperson and MP for Kira Municipality said that his only worry is that all the President’s targets have not been met in the past, and there is no reason to believe that the targets will be met now.
“All the targets that have been set by the President have been ambitious. They have not been met, and I don’t want to blame the President,” Ssemujju said.