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Experts Blame Unhealthy Competition as Schools Resort to Night Prep for Day Scholars

Henry Semakula who heads the Health/HIV unit in the Ministry said the revised guidelines that will soon be ousted have set official school time at 3pm to tackle the growing concerns of among others sleep deprivation among school going children, over loading their brains and not allowing them time for physical activities that are vital for their development.

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The Ministry of Education is proposing to have school time reduced from the current 8 am – 5pm to 3: 30pm. The development comes after complaints by various stakeholders about children reporting to school very early and leaving late in the night.

Henry Semakula who heads the Health/HIV unit in the Ministry said the revised guidelines that will soon be ousted have set official school time at 3pm to tackle the growing concerns of among others sleep deprivation among school going children, over loading their brains and not allowing them time for physical activities that are vital for their development.

However, while this proposal is well intentioned, worries linger of how this will be implemented considering that many schools have not been respecting the present policy.

Asked how they intend to implement this, Dr. Tonny Mukasa Lusambu, the Commissioner for Basic Education at the Ministry said the responsibility of enforcement is with district authorities. For them, he said their role is to write circulars to the various local governments who are supposed to supervise their respective schools.

Lusambu who blames competition by schools and parents to score highly as a reason for failing to adhere to Ministry of Education guidelines said the private schools are setting bad pace for government schools making them abandon guidelines set by the Ministry for fear of being out-competed.

He said the challenge is that this happening in an environment where district authorities that are supposed to enforce are also very weak. When URN put this to Dr. Fredrick Kiyingi, the District Education Officer for Wakiso district on Tuesday, he said it’s very challenging to enforce without sensitizing parents about foregoing vitals like enough sleep and rest in the chance for marks. 

He said currently he is challenged to crack down day schools that offer night preps because parents are siding with school authorities as they keep children late in class. To him many schools in the district are releasing their students at 8pm for they have to attend night preps where teachers continue with syllabus and only give learners an hour’s break at 5pm and call them back to class. 

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He said this problem started as early as 2016 but all the circulars he has written to schools banning the move have been ignored. At some point, he said he involved the police but realized this wasn’t sustainable especially with parents competing to see their children appear in newspapers whereby some go to the extent of moving to schools miles away from home in a lookout for good grades.

Both experts agree that enforcing such healthy school policies will require sensitization of parents to resist what is being sold to them that education is just about good grades.  In fact, Kiyingi proposes a return of the old double shift system where children should study for a few hours and allow them internalize what they study and also fully engage in co-curricular activities.        

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