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Ebola Outbreak Stalls Schooling in Uganda

FILE - Pupils stand outside their classroom at Madudu Catholic Church school, where many students have stayed away due to the risk of Ebola, in Madudu, near Mubende in Uganda, Sept. 28, 2022.

It is a school time across the country but Madudu Church of Uganda Primary School remains ghostly quiet as an outbreak of Ebola in the community keeps pupils away from the classroom.

Madudu subcounty in the Mubende District is the epicenter of the recently announced Ebola outbreak in the East African country.

The community has already recorded many deaths with some doctors now describing them as "probable Ebola deaths."

With all the uncertainty around the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, many parents have opted to keep their children at home.

When The Associated Press team visited the school on Thursday, only 16 pupils were attending a lesson while half of the class kept away.

Robert Kasirye, the school's deputy headteacher, says since the outbreak, the number of pupils attending school has drastically reduced despite the government's call for schools to remain operational.

"The school enrollment is 692 pupils, now we have only 16, it is due to Ebola. Parents fear their pupils to be affected by this, we can say it is a pandemic disease," said Robert Kasirye.

David Ssali, a teacher who braved the scare to teach the few pupils who came to school, says attempts were made to encourage parents to send their children to school but in vain.

Even some of his fellow teachers decided to stay home in fear of catching the virus, which seems to be spreading in the community, Ssali said.

The Uganda National Examinations Board, the body mandated to set exams for all schools in the country, recently released its examination roadmap for 2022.

Students in Madudu are likely to be disadvantaged as they stay away from schools to avoid contracting the Ebola virus.

"The pupils are going to miss, even P.7 pupils. We expect poor performance because when the parents fail to send their pupils to school, we expect them to perform in a way which cannot be good," Kasirye said.

The Resident District Commissioner of Mubende District Rosemary Byabashaija says her hands are tied.

Byabashaija, however, encourages schools to put in place extra measures that can build confidence in parents to allow their children to return to classrooms.

Uganda announced the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus in the central district of Mubende on 20 September. Since then, the country has registered over 35 positive cases, with many unaccounted for deaths.