Department for Education debates allowing students to have phones at school

The Ministry of Education and Sports said it was looking into allowing learners to have mobile phones at school as one of the ways to facilitate learning, but added that the status quo remained.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 which led to the total closure of all educational institutions in the country, learners have embraced online learning which required the use of computers and smartphones.

After schools reopened, there was a debate over whether the government should allow the use of smartphones in schools.

Speaking to reporters at the ministry’s headquarters in Kampala on Wednesday, Minister of State for Higher Education John Chysestom Muyingo said the ministry understands that these gadgets can be used as a tool to facilitate indoor learning. and outside the classroom.

He added, however, that the ministry is aware that phones can be a distraction in the learning environment, especially during teaching hours, whether in class or outside.

“These phones become a distraction when they get in the way of our ability to focus on what we’re supposed to be doing at any given time,” he said.

As a result, Muyingo said his ministry is looking into the matter to address it holistically.

“As a ministry, we are still studying this issue of allowing learners to use mobile phones in schools. We want to address this challenge holistically within the context of a larger framework on how to leverage ICT to facilitate learning in our education system. Once this framework is in place, we will have a basis to develop supporting regulation of the use of mobile phones among other ICTs within the framework of educational institutions of learning,” he said.

“We want to ensure that when we fully embrace the use of ICT across the education system, we do so in a way that is age-appropriate, beneficial and safe for the learner, teacher and student. school environment. Until then, the status quo of not allowing the use of personal mobile phones by learners in school settings remains,” he added.

Phones, Muyingo said, can also become a distraction for adults — even in the classroom or workplace, and imagined what the situation might be like for young people.

“Adults are distracted and interrupted in their attention with phones by engaging in text messaging, checking email and social media, but also searching the internet for information that is irrelevant to a particular occasion. These same sources of distraction and interruption are not uncommon among young people either,” he said.

Muyingo noted that in some countries that have attempted to allow learners to have phones in classrooms, learners have been observed to check their phones more than ten times a day.

This amount of distraction time, he said, can have a significant impact on a learner’s ability to focus and achieve learning goals; and ultimately lead to frustration, stress and subsequent undesirable consequences thereof.

Furthermore, Muyingo said that notwithstanding mobile phones and other ICTs, gadgets have become a platform and medium to spread vices such as cheating, cyber-bullying and other anti-social behaviors.

“As a ministry, given the nature of the business we do in our schools, we do not want the environment within the educational institution of learning to become a place where such vices proliferate. Nor, as a government, would we want to promote interventions that increase inequalities of access to quality education. Therefore, even if we consider adopting ICT to facilitate learning, we will ensure that we do so in a way that does not give advantage to a few learners over others,” Muyingo said.

Visiting days in boarding schools

Muyingo said the government has not allowed visiting days at boarding schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Following the proclamation of the full reopening of the economy in January 2022 by President Museveni, the education and sports sector has reopened for all its learners across the system.

The Ministry of Education and Sports, with technical advice from the Ministry of Health, has formulated guidelines for the safe reopening of educational institutions.

Addressing the issue, Muyingo said that as a government, they are aware of the fact that COVID-19 is still prevalent in the country, adding that with the knowledge accumulated since the outbreak of COVID-19, the maintaining the prevention of the spread is a key intervention in schools.

As a result, he said visiting days at boarding schools were not allowed.

“The reason we have not allowed visitation days to resume is that boarding schools act as protective bubbles against contamination from outside infections. This does not mean that boarding schools are immune to the spread of COVID-19, but if it does occur, it is a better controlled environment to limit the spread in the wider community outside of school,” did he declare.

The Minister showed empathy towards parents and guardians who want to go see their little ones they have not seen since returning to school on January 10, 2022.

He however noted that children are in good hands at the school, adding that in the event of an emergency requiring a parent to see or bring their child home, the school will duly contact the relevant parent or guardian. .