The Covid 19 pandemic has created a number of disruptions globally and one of the most affected areas is the employment sector. The pandemic induced a number of layoffs and as result of taking precautionary safety measures the president issued a number of guidelines and directions that brought many businesses and workplaces to a standstill. Initially only essential workers like medical workers, some public sectors and the transport industry dealing in imports and exports were allowed to work. The rest of the sectors including the institutions of learning, business sector and the entertainment industry were shut down. Means and modes of transportation were also restricted and everyone was urged to stay home.
The move was deemed temporary and necessary for the protection of everyone but eventually it has become a way of life, with a few sectors of the economy open while strictly following the Ministry of Health SOPs guidelines while some other sectors are still on total lockdown. The most recently opened up sectors are the business hubs in arcades and malls as well as the transportation sector. Amidst all this, the institutions of learning stay closed with no hope of re-opening soon. There is no guaranteed way of ensuring social distancing in institutions that are already at maximum capacity, as well as the fact that some of these institutions have minors who may not necessarily understand the gravity of the situation.
Recently, the cases are not only increasing on a daily basis but Uganda has also registered two deaths in a space of one week.
Now we all know these institutions are not only comprised of learners but have employees doing the teaching and administration. These institutions are divided into government and private. Although the government has encouraged a digital migration in the way of teaching through virtual learning, the use of radios and television, most of these measures are not sustainable with the high internet costs of Uganda. The cost of accessing the internet is not affordable to the dependent students or the teachers who are not earning. One would ask, what is the fate of the teachers and other workers whose sectors remain under lock down?
In a recent article of the Daily Monitor published on 27/07/2020 some teachers in Namutuba district had resorted to helping illiterate boda-boda riders make passenger registration for a fee of 300 Uganda shillings in order to help their families survive. At the beginning of the pandemic, the government distributed food in a few regions, but it was not a comprehensive distribution as many families starve without sources of income.
Not only are the strict rules discriminatory on grounds of education background of the boda-boda riders but also infringe on the freedom of movement of passengers without national IDs like minors, refugees, people who were affected by the slow NIRA process among others. The state has a mandate under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to protect the socio-economic rights of its citizens. The state shall fulfill the fundamental rights of citizens to economic development as enshrined in the constitution of Uganda under national objective XIV.
I would recommend the government adopts the UN Framework for socio-economic response to Covid 19 released in 2020 that advised; providing immediate financial support for the self-employed and informally employed. The government should provide relief through grants, loans and tax relief to enterprises which are time-bound, non-bureaucratic and linked to the maintenance of jobs. The government can suspend credit registries, employment retention schemes, ensure government paid leave, salaries paid directly by government for quarantine and lockdown affected enterprises.
With the above measures in place, businesses may cope and measures being issued by policy makers may try to alleviate financial burden on citizens across the country.