Home Editorial commentary How schools are observing standard operating procedures

How schools are observing standard operating procedures

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A pupil at St. Abigal Primary school Mpumudde in Jinja City washing her hands as a measure to observe the standard operating procedures (SOPs)

James Batte, deputy head teacher in-charge of administration, Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo, says the first step was to set up a Covid- 19 taskforce.  The taskforce is composed of teachers, students and security. This is to ensure the SOPs are observed.

The Covid–19 taskforce at Kings College Buddo comprises the deputy head teacher Alice Kaddu, who is in-charge of health and sick-bay, director of studies, matrons, wardens, biology teachers and two deputy head prefects in-charge of student’s health.

 Kaddu says to raise awareness, parents, medical doctors and old boys converged to sensitize the students about Covid-19 and how to prevent it.

She emphasizes that upon noticing signs and symptoms of Covid-19, the students are expected to report to the nurse immediately.  The school has four nurses plus a school doctor on stand-by to handle any suspected case.

Talking compounds

The deputy head teacher at St Mary’s Namagunga, Racheal Laboke, explains that the school set up a talking compound with postures bearing the messages on SOPs.  The students are encouraged to constantly read them.

Isolation rooms

Both St Peters Nsambya and Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo set up isolation rooms in case they got Covid-19 suspected cases.

 Brother Simon Mpaga, the deputy Head Teacher, St Mary’s College Kisubi, says they set up an isolation room, just in case of any Covid-19-related issues. 

 He say: “In addition, the school officials have telephone contacts for both Kisubi hospital and Entebbe Grade B hospital for emergence, in case a student is suspected to have Covid-19. The school has recruited another nurse to boost the medical manpower.”

According to Kaddu, Kings College Buddo has an isolation room where students suspected to have covid-19 can be retained as the testing process is on-going. The room has separate divisions to cater for space for both boys and girls.

Pupils of St. Abigal primary school attending class while wearing masks to avoid the spread of COVID 19

Hand washing facilities

The out-going head teacher at St Peters Primary School Nsambya, Francis Ssenabulya, says hand washing facilities have been set up at different entry points in the school. In addition, sanitizers are placed at entry points or places where they expect people to converge, for instance at reception or in the class rooms with close supervision by the teachers.

Brother Mpanga says about 20 hand washing machines, sanitizers were placed at strategic places at St Mary’s college Kisubi.  He adds that about 700 were provided for students in addition to those brought by parents.

Batte says that daily activities at Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo start with checking body temperatures for both students and teachers. Social distancing and wearing of masks is also emphasized throughout the day. Hand washing at every entry point of the school, plus sanitizing of hands is also encouraged.

Spacing

Ssenabulya says that St. Peters Primary School Nsambya has 300 candidates who are evenly distributed to fit in 18 classrooms. In the dormitories the pupils are also spaced to ensure a social distance of two meters.

Brother Mpanga explains that at St Mary’s College Kisubi, the senior four class has a population of 210 students who are split into eight streams. Senior six students are also split into three streams.

He emphasizes that those who do not follow the SOPs are at a risk of being suspended

Entertainment time

Sports and entertainment activities were suspected at Kings College

Buddo. “For major matches, a big screen is put outside where every student can watch while ensuring social spacing. During play time, the students continue to observe social distance; they run around or enjoy their aerobics while spaced,” Kaddu says.

Pupils of St Peters Nsambya are allowed to play at designated areas on each block.

Prayer time

At St Peters Nsambya, prayers are conducted in the dining hall, which is big enough for social distancing.

Meanwhile students at St Mary’s College Kisubi have mass in two shifts to avoid overcrowding.

Senior four students pray on Tuesday while the senior six students make use of Friday morning.

With such an arrangement, students are able to fit in the Chapel with desirable two meter distance.

Similarly, prayers at Kings’ College Buddo are conducted in shifts for both the senior four and senior six students. The non- teaching staff attend a separate service, consequently, enabling the school to observe social distancing.

Meal time

Students at Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo and St. Peters Primary School Nsambya are served meals in a phased manner, one stream after the other.

Kaddu explains that the self-service method at meal time was suspended at Kings College Buddo.  Currently, the students are served by cooks to avoid touching serving spoons which may pose a risk of infection in a case one of them was infected with Covid-19.

Support from church

Ssenabulya says that it was very costly to set up the SOPs at St Peters Primary School Nsambya. He says although the church founded the school, it does not fund school activities. However, the school was lucky to get funding of Shs 1.5 million from government which helped to buy sanitizers.

Batte acknowledges that Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo was allowed to use the pavilion at the Martyrs Ground. This enabled them to observe social distancing on the reporting day.

Fred Ssentubwe, the head teacher Lake side College Luzira, notes that at the re-opening of the school, church donated Shs 3 million which they used to buy hand washing equipment and sanitizers.

Despite financial constraints due to Covid- 19 lockdown, Brother Mpanga says St. Mary’s College Kisubi did not receive support from the Church.

“Everything is done by the school including buying 700 masks for the students. The financial situation has been so bad especially during lockdown that we were forced to use our own money to pay teachers’ salaries,” Mpanga says.

Holy Communion

Brother Mpanga says during holy-communion, St Mary’s College Kisubi students do not overcrowd. They move in intervals to get served.

He acknowledges that the students still receive Holy Communion by their tongues. He, however, said discussions are on-going and probably, they will get a solution of serving it differently.

“We also need to get permission from the Archbishop before introducing another method of serving holy- communion,” he says.

Meanwhile, school heads at Kings College Buddo suspended Holy Communion until the pandemic has been tamed.

Challenges

Ssenabulya says the new normal of wearing masks while teaching English language is very inconveniencing. “Pronouncing some English words with masks on is quite difficult for pupils,” he says

Brother Mpanga says that suspending sports is raising a lot of complaints from students. However, the students are encouraged to be patient as they wait for the covid-19 pandemic to get contained.

Fredrick Ssentubwe says the biggest challenge at Lakeside College Luzira is space in dormitories.

“With the spacing requirement of two meters between the beds, we can only accommodate few students in the dormitory. The dormitory that was accommodating 36 students is now occupied by only eight to nine students,” says Ssentumbwe.

He highlights inadequate finances as the other challenge. The current enrollment for the two candidate classes is 277 students, yet the non-teaching staff employees are still many. Much as teachers for the lower classes have not reported, the number of employees has not reduced much.

 “We have a total of 46 teachers and currently 40 are teaching the two candidate classes.  Not forgetting, paying the non-teaching staff and footing other costs such as power and water, yet the income has totally reduced,” he says.  He complains that with such financial constraints, paying teachers is challenging.

Ultimately, all school head officials agreed to the fact that students are finding it hard to adhere to all SOPs and constantly, they have to remind them to keep the health procedures in mind.

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