Opening Event of the School-Level Training on School-Based Surveillance of COVID-19
Remarks by Dr. Munir Safieldin, UNICEF Representative in Uganda
I am delighted to be here today with all of you at the opening session of today’s training, and I thank the organizers for this opportunity.
What the Ministry of Education is preparing to undertake next week is one of the most important things it can do on behalf of children across Uganda, and that is to reopen the country’s schools.
As UNICEF’s Executive Director recently observed, COVID-19 has been the most significant global crisis for children in the past 100 years. The pandemic has rolled back virtually every measure of progress for children across the world.
While the Ministry of Education promoted the continuity of learning through various modalities—which UNICEF has been proud to support—we know that nothing substitutes for face-to-face learning.
So it is extremely important that schools open next week.
However, we know that there will be risks, particularly given the growing number of omicron cases that are spreading throughout the country.
Fortunately, we have a number of tools at our disposal—tools that we didn’t have at the beginning of this pandemic.
- First, the Ministry of Health is working tirelessly to ensure that all teachers are vaccinated. As of January 2nd, almost 75% of all teachers had received at least one COVID vaccine dose; more than 30% were fully vaccinated. UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health in its campaign to vaccinate teachers and other high-priority groups, and is extremely hopeful based on the accelerated progress we’ve seen in just a few short months.
- Second, the Ministry of Education is rolling out trainings like the one we are attending today on school-based surveillance, which will help teachers and head-teachers prevent, detect, and manage COVID cases, and connect schools with health services to provide additional support.
If schools and health services put today’s training into practice, we can avoid the situation that occurred last June, in which learning institutions were closed due to the mismanagement of COVID cases.
When it comes to education, UNICEF believes that during a pandemic, schools should be the last the close and the first to re-open. For that reason, UNICEF has committed itself to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Government of Uganda in its duty to ensure that the right to education for all children is fulfilled.
We know that these challenges are beyond the capacity of any single actor, and for that reason we would like to thank the governments of the UK and Ireland for their generous contributions to support the trainings of teachers and head-teachers in all primary and secondary schools, public and private, across the country, which have made these trainings possible.
I would like to close by sharing my respect for all head-teachers and teachers present here. Others can support, but only you can keep the schools safe and ensure that children receive the quality education they need and deserve. We are aware that there are many challenges, and your task at the forefront of this effort is among the most difficult. However, if anyone can make this happen, teachers can. The future of a generation of children, and the future of the country, is in your able hands.
The training follows a cascade model: 50 national-level Master Trainers from the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Health train a team of 15 district-level trainers, who in turn will train four teachers from each school. To ensure high-level support, a team of 5-7 district political and administrative leaders (including the LC5 Chair, RCDC, and CAO) were oriented on school-based surveillance (SBS). All the TOTs and orientations were online.
The school-level training is taking place in all districts from 6-8 January 2022. A total of 144,800 teachers from 36,200 schools across the country are being trained on how to prevent, detect, and manage COVID-19 cases, including reporting and referring to the nearest health facilities. The mapping of schools and the nearest health facilities was completed earlier. If any schools are missing from this mapping, such linkage between the school and the nearest health facilities will be completed during the training.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/uganda