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A holiday within a holiday, #covid19 rising in Uganda, as IMF approves loan…

Kampala – 7th May 2020. Around this time of the year, schools break-off for holidays.  Uganda, like the rest of the world, normally requires all primary, secondary, technical/schools, and polytechnics to observe the school holidays (Table 1). During holidays, students break off from school to be with family and friends and learn from their parents. The Ministry of Education and Sports of Uganda had planned the first term holidays to start on 2nd May 2020. So, we are now having holidays within the holidays since students were sent home earlier.

Table 1 indicates the school holidays that had been planned.

Table 1: Ministry of Education planned holidays for 2020

This year is different. The #coronavirus pandemic disrupted many things. Students returned from school on 20th March 2020, as a social distancing measure against covid19. As of today, they are still at home. The sudden holiday means that students must work hard and complete the Term 1 syllabus from home. No wonder online education has become popular, with many schools now investing in technology and on-line studies.

Based on the national timetable, Term 2 shall start on 25th May 2020. In Uganda, the lockdown was extended by two more weeks to around 22nd May 2020. This means if all goes as planned schools shall be allowed to re-open on 25th May 2020 or thereabout for Term 2. Since the pandemic happened at the start of the year, the students may not have lost much. In case the government assesses the further risk of the coronavirus in the country, an extension of the lockdown would start to be felt especially by schools that have not embraced online education.

But the experience has enabled many schools to embrace a digital agenda and fast track online education. Technology is always an equalizer. Any institution of learning that had not prioritized on-line education and a digital agenda, risks losing market share and brand equity. Already, some prominent Universities in the country have failed to leverage technology to continue delivering training. This is unfortunate and shameful. International universities and other institutions of higher learning with critical resources are registering huge success.

Schools that shall come up with robust online learning stand huge opportunities to win. Covid19 may have caused a lot of death already, but it has come with a silver lining whereby many organizations have registered leapfrogging when it comes to technology adoption and use. In the past, remote, and flexible working were things that appeared abstract. Today, they are the new normal.

#covid19 cases rising in Uganda

The coronavirus pandemic is not relaxing. Despite the social distancing measures and the lockdown, the confirmed cases in Uganda have risen to 100. The good news is there is no death due to covid19 in the country. And all the new cases are imported in by the truck drivers who must deliver cargo from seaports in Kenya and Tanzania since Uganda is a landlocked country. Also, some of the drivers delivering cargo to Rwanda must go through Uganda.

The government extended the lockdown aby another two weeks to further study how to manage the pandemic.

In a related development, the New York Times has reported that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved the US $491.5 million loans to limit coronavirus impact in the country.  According to the NYtimes.com article, “the Ministry of Finance projects the country’s foreign exchange reserves will decline to the equivalent of 3.5 months’ worth of imports from 4.2 months’ worth as exports slump due to the global pandemic… and that Uganda’s central bank expects economic growth to fall to 3%-4% for the financial year to June from its previous projection of 5.5%-6%, as COVID-19 slashes activity in manufacturing, entertainment, and trade.”

This is a good development and a timely loan.

Many businesses, even those in technology like telecommunications companies have been affected by the lockdown directly or indirectly. The loan is expected to provide the much-needed foreign exchange stabilization and a stimulus to the economy.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.  

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