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Schools With Multiple UNEB Centres Flout Covid-19 SOPs

According to schools that URN visited, schools like St Joseph’s Nansana and Sam Iga Memorial School and St Stephen’s Church of Uganda Primary School found it hard to adhere to Standard Operating Procedures due to lack of adequate space.
Primary Seven Candidates at St Joseph's Primary School

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Schools with several Uganda National Examination Board centres have been overwhelmed with large numbers of candidates during the Primary Leaving Examinations. 

According to schools that URN visited, schools like St Joseph’s Nansana and Sam Iga Memorial School and St Stephen’s Church of Uganda Primary School found it difficult to adhere to Standard Operating Procedures due to lack of adequate space.

The schools had over 250 candidates each and as a result, could not adhere to the two-meter social distancing rule during the examination. Instead of the each candidate occupying a school desk, they were forced to share desks.

In addition to this, wearing facial masks, washing hands and the use of temperature guns were also not adhered to.

In February, UNEB requested a supplementary budget of 10.4 Billion Shillings saying that the 2020 examinations required more space due to a change in spacing from 1.2 meters to the required 2 meters to meet the covid-19 social distancing requirements. Eventually, parliament passed the budget.

The schools usually host schools without Uganda National Examination Board-UNEB centre numbers or counterparts with UNEB centre numbers but with fewer candidates.

At several centres which URN reporters visited, the candidates’ sitting arrangement was similar to the usual classroom setting. The invigilators had no space to sit with many of them supervising candidates from windows.

Margaret Nabakooza, the headteacher at St Joseph Primary School Nansana, says that the centre always hosts 20 schools with learners being distributed to the available rooms, but this year, the school hosted 520 candidates.

Nabakooza says that it would be very difficult for them to space learners at a 2metre distance.

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The situation was not different at St Stephen’s Primary School which is hosting 266 candidates.

Diana Nantongo, the Director of Studies, notes that even during normal days they would fail to meet the required 1.2-metre rule and therefore there is no way how they could be able to observe 2 metres yet the number of candidates has increased. 

“For major centres that host different schools, it is very difficult to observe the 2-metre social distance. Schools have not constructed a new building and we cannot make candidates sit outside due to weather factors,” Nantongo said.

William Gimei, a Headteacher of Sam Iga Memorial Primary school, says they have been able to emphasize washing of hands, sanitizing and wearing of face masks.

But Gimei says that due to the big population of 428 candidates, they cannot afford to observe the 2-meter social distancing guideline because the classes are small. He says they can only afford a one-meter distance.

Gimei adds that the huge number of candidates has been caused by several schools that don't have centre numbers. 

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Robert Kamushabe, an examination scout at Masooli Church of Uganda Primary School which had 275 candidates, says that the centre was overwhelmed with a big number of candidates and couldn’t observe social distance.   From observations, a room that was supposed to accommodate 25 candidates had more than 60 candidates.

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Kamushabe says they used the available space to ensure that all candidates sit and write their final exam without prioritizing social distancing.

Kamushabe adds that the school also lacked furniture with most of the learners sitting on improved material like chairs and table borrowed from neighbouring schools and homes. 

Besides, COVID-19 rules, having a distance between candidates is critical in examinations as it is one of the ways of eliminating malpractices such as copying.

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