Opposition lynchpin Dr Kiiza Besigye has described the government’s move to close schools earlier than expected as a myopic decision that will cripple Uganda’s education sector and is not related to the Ebola outbreak in the country.
According to Dr Besigye, the closure of the schools is not in anyway related to the outbreak of Ebola but rather an economic crisis, because the government wishes to channel funding intended for schools to other uses.
He argued that it is ridiculous for the government to panic and announce the closure of schools before the expected dates, but again give schools two weeks before the actual closure.
“It is ridiculous to say that Ebola is spreading in schools but you only close them on the 25th, so what is happening between now and 25th, there is no spread of Ebola…? it’s ridiculous,” Besigye told journalists at the Forum for Democratic Change-FDC party headquarters in Najanankumbi.
Besigye also argued that it would be easy to control the spread of the virus in schools, because that is a regulated environment compared to the case when they are out of school. It is against this background that Besigye called on parents to oppose the government’s directive, arguing that children had for a long time stayed at home and not studied due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Besigye argued that children are trying to make up for what they missed during the lockdown, and that such a closure will be a huge setback for them. He adds that control of Ebola is even easier in a regulated environment like schools.
Besigye’s reaction comes after a pronouncement by State Minister of Education Joyce Moriku Kaducu, that the school term has been reduced by two weeks as one of the means to decongest schools, which their health counterparts say is likely to increase the vulnerability of children to Ebola disease. The term will now end on Friday November 25, 2022.
Kaducu explained that after evaluating experts opinions, it was noted that closing the schools earlier will reduce areas of concentration where children are in close contact daily. Children are said to be at high risk of contracting Ebola since they require daily contact with their peers and caregivers.
According to the Ministry of Health, the disease which was first detected in Mubende district has so far claimed 51 lives. It adds that cases of Ebola have so far been found at five schools in Kampala, Wakiso and Mubende districts. The schools with affected children have been cordoned off and are being asked to decontaminate their facilities so children can safely return after the new year.
By the time the government made the pronouncement, at least 23 children had contracted Ebola since the outbreak was first confirmed in Uganda. Eight of these died, while five had fully recovered and 16 were still under isolation.