This comes at the time when Uganda is dealing with a second wave of the pandemic which is spreading like a wildfire.
However, some of the students returned from school with Covid-19.
Many have blamed this on school administrators who concealed the infections so that they could continue operating.
In his televised address, Mr Museveni said a total of 948 Covid cases were registered at 43 schools in 22 districts.
“Kampala, Gulu, Masaka, and Oyam districts combined constitute 61 per cent of the reported cases in schools and higher institutions of learning. We believe this number is much higher, only that most schools are not reporting,” the President said.
He attributed the high number of infections in schools largely to poor compliance to standard operating procedures, inadequate sanitisation facilities, overcrowding, failure by some school administration to monitor signs and symptoms among the learners and timely reporting and concealment of infections by some school administrators.
At the outbreak of the pandemic, closing schools to protect children, teachers, and parents from a new unknown virus was the right thing to do according to leaders.
The acting Lira District Health Officer, Mr Edmond Aceka, said at least 29 students of Lira School of Comprehensive Nursing and Midwifery have been quarantined at the school after they tested positive for Covid-19.
“We thought the students would be kept at school because some of them could be positive but now they have gone to the community,” he said. “We are now saying we shall take the samples from the community.”
In Soroti, parents are up in arms after a number of students tested positive for Covid-19 at St Mary’s Girls School Madera.
Dr Wilson Etolu, the officer-in-charge of the Covid-19 unit at Soroti Regional Referral Hospital, said the students are currently being monitored at the hospital.
Ms Angella Akello, a parent whose child tested positive for Covid-19 at the school, said: “We were called when medical workers from Soroti Covid-19 unit carried out tests, and it so happened that my child tested positive. She is currently at the Covid unit.”
Ms Akello said a number of teachers from the same school also tested positive, some of whom had gone to mark Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) exams.
Mr Martin Okiria Obore, the head teacher of Soroti Secondary School and the chairperson of head teachers across the country, told Daily Monitor that the upsurge in the number of Covid-19 cases in schools reached its peak following the phased reporting.
“The Senior One and Two students, who reported late are most likely the ones who could have triggered the Covid outbreak in schools,” he said.
At the start of reporting, when the President eased the lockdown, the Ministry Of Education through the Standard Department carried out a survey whose reports indicated that most schools met the standard operational procedures (SOPs).
“Those that did not meet the requirements were given two weeks to have the SOPs in place, which they did. When it was Senior Three, Four, Five, and Six, the cases of Covid at school were almost negligible,” Mr Okiria said.
“From our understanding, the main cause for the upsurge of Covid-19 in schools has been majorly movement of either teachers or students.”
He also noted that the other major trigger is people who have not taken the vaccine – both teachers and the learners.
Mr Okiria further added that the other category are people who are not conscious about the symptoms of Covid-19, and have continued treating the symptoms as malaria.
Mr Okiria said under their association of head teachers, they have resolved to fumigate all schools during the 42-day lockdown.
“Other schools have gone ahead to test all their teachers for Covid-19 and are also encouraging all staff to take vaccination against the pandemic,” he said.
“As Soroti Secondary School, I have had meetings with the staff and support staff and non-teaching staff to adhere to Covid-19 measures, among them testing and taking vaccination,” he added.
The acting Kabale District Health Officer, Mr Alfred Besigensi, said before the schools were closed for the second time, students from different institutions of learning in Kabale had tested positive for the virus. The positive cases, he said, were being managed at Kabale hospital.
“As per Monday morning, about 112 confirmed cases were recorded in Kabale District, and among these are students from higher institutions of learning. I am not yet sure of how many have been discharged but I was told that about 40 new cases were recorded on Monday evening,” Mr Besigensi said.
In Masaka, many of the students returned with severe cough and flu which many suspect could be Covid-19.
Considering the bureaucracy involved in the Covid-19 testing process, some parents have resorted to giving the students a concoction of ginger, lemon, onions, garlic mixed with other fruits to treat the visible symptoms.
Ms Amina Namukasa, a resident of Kimaanya in Masaka City, said her 17-year-old daughter returned home with cough and flu and she immediately purchased a concoction of the known fruits for treating flu which she felt could cure her daughter.
“I am happy she is now a little better than how she was yesterday” She added.
Other parents are, however, treating the condition as common cold and flu.
However, Masaka Resident City Commissioner, Mr Fred Bamwine, who heads the city Covid-19 taskforce, said they have received reports of students returning from school with Covid-like symptoms and advised parents to isolate them.
“It is important to isolate even people who are coming to villages from Kampala and Wakiso for at least two weeks as you monitor their condition since such areas are Covid-19 hotspots ,” he said
For most students, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a tragedy of multiple dimensions. With schools closed, many children lost access to a relatively safe environment at a time when the deteriorated economic conditions at home led to increased stress as well as domestic violence.
Compiled by Bill Oketch, Simon Peter Emwamu, Robert Muhereza, & Malik Fahad Jjingo