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Social Distancing, E -learning Impossible for Schools- Experts

Dr Ekwaro Obuku, a Health Policy Expert said there’s no equity in the options that the government proposed, yet even in schools that embarked on distance learning, learners still needed the support of parents. As a result, many schools have now abandoned e-learning because the investment in infrastructure to run such programmes is high.

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Educational experts have said that schools cannot respect the Ministry of Health instituted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to slow the spread of COVID-19 even as they all agree that continued closure could undo gains made in education.

Filbert Baguma, the Secretary-General of the teachers’ union-UNATU said teachers are in a dilemma with the reality that applying social distancing alone is impossible as this will not only require more infrastructure in terms of classrooms but also more teachers.

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As he is saying this, the Ministry of Health has dispatched teams to consult with District Education Officers (DEOs) to assess the status of schools and discuss strategies for safe opening. In addition to these, researchers at the Makerere University School of Education have also embarked on a study to examine interventions that will help students study without having to converge.

But,  experts who were attending a meeting to discuss educational leadership and management said e-learning, printed reading materials and instruction over the radio as were promoted as alternatives were not well thought out, are not equitable and a waste of resources. Baguma gave radio instruction as an example of a failed intervention.

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Dr Ekwaro Obuku, a Health Policy Expert said there’s no equity in the options that the government proposed,  yet even in schools that embarked on distance learning, learners still needed the support of parents. As a result, many schools have now abandoned e-learning because the investment in infrastructure to run such programmes is high.

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He said Agha khan, one of the high end schools in the country couldn’t sustain their online programmes and it stops this week.

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For Baguma, e-learning can only be possible if there is the necessary infrastructure.

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Meanwhile, elsewhere, schools started reopening slowly, some in a phased manner as early as June with piling concerns of closures doing more harm than good to a group that scientists have found at a lower risk of getting infected. 

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for instance has since been warning that continued closure of schools risks many not returning forever with reports of increased teenage pregnancies and violence. The organization has highlighted six key dimensions to consider when planning for re-opening which include policy, financing, safe operations, learning, reaching the most marginalized and wellbeing or protection of those involved including learners and their teachers.  

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