Ebola Lockdown: P7 Leavers Wait for Gov’t Transport After Exams

Primary Seven learners are waiting for the government to avail transport to return home.

On Tuesday the government issued guidelines on how to release learners securely while reducing the danger of Ebola transmission and without interfering with ongoing national Ebola control activities.

In a notice to District Education Officers, the education ministry emphasized that the guidelines were developed after an assessment of the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic response.

Although the guidelines are already in place, it seems the practice is totally different as primary seven leavers return to their respective homes upon completion of their examination on Wednesday. For instance, the health and education ministry emphasized that schools needed to screen all learners for EVD symptoms prior to departure from the school. This was to be applied across the country with special attention put in districts where Ebola had been confirmed among learners including Kampala, Wakiso, Mubende, and Kassanda.

However, since Wednesday when PLE ended, learners have been moving back to their homes with many seen moving in taxis and on boda-boda.

When URN reporters visited some boarding schools it was noted that they were not carrying out any screening. At Hormisdallen Primary School Kyebando for example, the head teacher Godfrey Kimbugwe confirmed that they were not carrying out any screening. “We have not had any Ebola cases here. In our view, we found no need for that,” Kimbugwe said, adding all they are doing is following SOPs and handing them over to parents.

A number of parents had turned up waiting for their children. Our reporters also learned that many schools were not even aware of the guidelines. This was confirmed by Bilal Primary School Director of Studies, Shafiq Ssebyala. 

Ssebyala noted the school took a self-initiative a few days ago and sent out circular advising parents from Mubende and Kassanda to either temporarily leave the learners at school as they wait for clear movement arrangements or send relatives from within other districts to pick them up. 

While announcing the shortening of the school term on Tuesday, Dr. Joyce Kaducu, the State Minister for Primary Education noted that arrangements were to be made, with the help from KCCA, local governments, and the ministry of works and transport, to transport learners who will be moving to and from Mubende and Kassanda. However, nothing tangible has been put in place. For instance, in all taxi parks, there was no vehicle going to Mubende or Kassanda.

Hajji Badru Sserunjogi, the Chairperson of the New Taxi Park, noted that they had been contacted by several parents and schools with learners in Kassanda but unfortunately they could not transport them. Sserunjogi added this could only be possible if the government had issued them express permits to carry learners.

On Thursday, URN reached out to the Ebola national task force hotline, one of the authorities that had to implement the plan according to the document but they seemed ignorant. “We are not sure how that can be handled,” the operator told our reporter adding that he was to consult the Resident District Commissioner in Mubende to see how the matter is going to be handled.

In the guidelines, parents in Mubende and Kassanda are not allowed to move outside the two districts to pick up the learners from schools but were advised that they should continue remotely supporting their children from schools until clearance of travel is provided or the lockdown is lifted.

School heads especially in private institutions say that they were asked to submit the lists of learners from within and outside the restricted districts to prepare on how to transport them. However, by Thursday morning, various schools in Mubende and Kassanda were still waiting for the pronouncement from the authorities on how the children shall be transported.  

At Kasumba Nursery and Primary School, the head teacher Deo Magara said that they were waiting for the authorities because 16 out of 46 pupils who sat P.7 come from outside Mubende District while others come from far areas within the district.

Magara said that arrangements were being finalized with the District Taskforce, the surveillance team, and the Mubende Municipal Education team to have the children returned to their respective homes. He said that the data was compiled but they are not certain when the children will actually be taken to their respective.

At All Parents Primary School – Mubende, Sylvia Mukasa the head teacher said that they were asked to submit the list of names of all Primary Seven learners and their parents to the education department. She said that upon checking with the education department, she was informed that arrangements shall be finalized to have the children transported to their respective homes.    

Kassanda RDC, Phoebe Namulindwa said that the District Education Officers – DEOs were issued with guidelines to be followed. She said that school heads will work with government departments to have the children returned to their respective homes.

In Kyegegwa District, schools have been advised to register all learners whose homes are in Mubende or Kassandra. According to Monica Karungi, the Kyegegwa RDC, they will be given travel permits that they will be used to board public transport vehicles passing through Mubende.  Currently, no vehicle is allowed to make stopovers in Mubende. 

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