Headteachers Oppose Shifts at Primary Level as Proposed for Safe Reopening

Several primary school head teachers in Kampala are opposed to the staggered way of reopening as proposed by the government for safe reopening that calls for having two learning shifts per day or having alternate days for the learners.

Audio 5

Several primary school head teachers in Kampala are opposed to the staggered way of reopening that calls for having two learning shifts per day or having alternate days for the learners, as proposed by the government for safety of the learners.

Government is planning for the reopening of schools since the second closure that started in the month of June 2021 after several cases were discovered in schools that were already operating in a phased manner.   

According to the education ministry, staggered means that in a school learners can report on alternate days in the week or have double shifts in a day. This is meanty to ensure that schools with high enrollment also follow the social distancing SOP of maintaining the two meters if they cannot put up temporary structures.

Although the head teachers agree that it is important to decongest the learners through social distancing, they differ on some of the methods in which the government proposes to manage it.

Thomas Kisolo Kitandwe, the head teacher Kampala Quality Primary School with a population of 1,185, says making the primary learners report in two shifts a day may be a challenge to both the school, learners and the parents.

He explains that this will be a new experience for the primary level and given the age that they deal with they have always known how to handle different subjects at a given time of the day.

He says there some subjects that requires the learners at a primary age to be taught in the morning and now making it afternoon will be burden to both the teacher and the learners.

About the alternation of days in a week for the different classes to report he says that unless the ministry decongest the curriculum this cannot help.

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He also observes that many learners at primary level in the urban setting are usually dropped by parents on their way to work and in case a parent has two or more children at this same level, this will also require such a parent to have more than two shifts in a day of dropping and picking the children.

Kitandwe says that he has fears that this arrangement will contribute to absenteeism from school as parents might find it difficult to manage the intervals.


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He points out  that putting up temporary structures will be more practical but this cannot be possible because of the financial constraints some schools are going through .

He however, recommends that the government concentrate on vaccinating all eligible groups of people and reopen schools fully.

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Richard Abura, the deputy head teacher Nakasero primary school with a population of 2,221, says the arrangement of having shifts or alternate days of studying at primary level will need proper planning in order to have the intended impact.

Abura observes that with phased and staggered reopening, it might be hard if the turn to report is for the lower primary.

He says schools will find it hard to make learners at that age report in the afternoon because of the concentration levels and yet they have to catch up with the time lost. Similarly on the issue of the nature of learners they have, he says it will be difficult for the parents who normally drop their children in the morning as they head to work.

‘’What we need now is the lower classes who have not been to class since the first lockdown and if we are to make them stager then it calls for proper planning,‘’ says Abura

Joseph Okedi the Director of Studies St Peters Primary school Nsambya says as a school they can take on this option if it is the only option for the safe reopening.

He notes that the education system has been set that the lower primary pupils are always released at lunch time and making them again report in the afternoon may worsen the situation instead.

Okedi also observes that parents who come from a distance and have to drop their children as they go to work may be inconvenienced especially those with more than one child.

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Rogers Kakaire, the head teacher of Yudesi primary school, says the government should rethink its position on the phased and staggered reopening proposal.

He says the proposal can work better for the learners in secondary and in tertiary learning institutions but not the primary level as their concentration is always low in the afternoon, mainly the lower primary.

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Due to the pandemic that led to the lockdown of the country and closure of schools, government came up with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).  These were introduced into schools for reopening after the first lockdown and key among them was putting on masks, hand washing and social distancing.

But  other measures were proposed specifically for schools to operate safely and these included phased and staggered reopening, operating day or boarding and measuring temperature of learners both in the morning and evening.