By Joachim Ssembuze
The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Janet K Museveni, on Friday, made an impromptu on-spot inspection visit to Kyambogo University and Makerere University to assess the current status of accommodation of students in higher institutions of learning and their capacity to accommodate students in the context of COVID -19 as part of the preparations to re-open.
Janet Museveni led her colleagues; the State Minister for Higher Education Hon. Dr John Chrisestom Muyingo and the State Minister for Primary Education Rosemary Nansubuga Seninde, plus the Education Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Alex Kakooza, the Executive Director National Council for Higher Education Professor Mary Okwakol and Dr. Monica Musenero, the Senior Presidential Advisor on Epidemics.
They visited five halls of residence namely North Hall and Pearl Hall in Kyambogo University and Africa Hall, Mary Stuart Hall and Lumumba Hall in Makerere University, where they inspected rooms(cubicles), wash rooms, laundry rooms, the dining rooms and kitchens.
At Kyambogo University, the Education Minister and her entourage were taken around by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Eli Katunguka Rwakishaya, and the Acting Dean of Students, Mildred Tibananuka, while at Makerere University they were received by the Chairperson of Council Lorna Magara, the Vice Chancellor Professor Barnabas Nawangwe and other senior University managers.
Janet observed the urgent need for renovation of the halls of residence and called for a culture of routine maintenance of all public facilities in institutions of learning as opposed to waiting for things to get spoilt first and in turn requiring a lot of funds for rehabilitation.
She reiterated the President’s directive that Universities and other institutions of learning should continue offering online studies for a further three months until when the situation will be re-assessed in regard to availability of a vaccine targeting the first phase of frontline workers that include among others health workers, teachers and University lecturers.
In his briefing the Vice Chancellor Kyambogo reported that the University has a total population of 30,000 students but most of them reside in hostels outside the campus. He said that Kyambogo was able to coordinate exams for 13,000 third year and fourth year students at the campus in conformity with the COVID- 19 standard operating procedure (SOP) of social distancing.
“No COVID-19 incidence was reported at the Campus during this time,” He said.
He further noted that as an institution, they are ready to resume school but will wait for Government’s decision.
On his side Professor Barnabas Nawangwe said that the eleven halls of residence at Makerere University have the capacity to accommodate about only 4,700 students out of the total enrollment of 31,227 and the rest are accommodated by privately owned hostels outside campus whose management the University has no jurisdiction.
He however noted that University successfully coordinated exams for 11,275 student finalists who recently sat exams at Makerere without any incidence of COVID-19.
Professor Nawangwe called for concerted efforts of mobilizing and engaging private hostels owners to adhere to Covid-19 control measures when students resume studies.
He also talked of an option of using the shift system of re-opening for Universities, whereby each year of study comes in for a certain time for study to stagger the attendance of in-person learning at a particular time so as to avoid overcrowding and ensure observance of the standard operating procedure (SOP) of social distancing.
The Ministry of Education is to present a Cabinet Paper about the re-opening of schools and institutions of higher learning for Cabinet to take a decision.