The Ministry of Education and Sports has postponed a consultative meeting between the Minister and First Lady, Mrs. Janet Museveni and Members of Parliament.
The Ministry’s Spokesperson, Dr. Denis Mugimba communicated yesterday that the highly controversial “semi-parliamentary” meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday, November 24, 2021 at the Kololo Ceremonial grounds to discuss how best to reopen schools had been pushed to a yet to be established date.
About two weeks ago, the Minister of Education and Sports and First Lady, Mrs. Museveni wrote to the Speaker of Parliament, summoning lawmakers to a meeting where she would bring them up to speed on how schools that have been out of operation for two years due to the COVID19 situation will be reopened in January 2022.
She also expected the MPs who she said are the representatives of the people to give her views on how best the Ministry can handle the reopening of schools.
In a plenary sitting chaired by Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, he informed the House that he had received communication from Mrs. Museveni inviting the members to a meeting where she would be passing on a message on how schools will be reopened.
A section of the MPs made it known that they will reject the invitation and instead tried to persuade Oulanyah to ask the Minister to make her statement on the floor of Parliament as per the rules of procedure of the House as opposed to summoning them to Kololo.
The Leader of Opposition, Mathis Mpuuga said he wasn’t comfortable with the MPs convening at Kololo to be addressed by the Minister because the practice would be, “opening a Pandora’s box where ministers will decline to come to Parliament,” and opt for summoning them.
He also wondered how the resolutions from the “semi-parliamentary sitting” will be implemented and also expressed concern over the sanctity and independence of Parliament.
The Kira Municipality MP, Ssemujju Nganda demanded to know under what rule the Minister summons the MPs to Kololo. He said it goes against the rules of procedure for a Minister to summon MPs who are meant to supervise him or her.
“Hon. Speaker, you didn’t subject us to testing today to come to this sitting. We are setting a bad precedent by allowing this to happen,” he said adding that Parliament supervises the Executive therefore; playing by its whims would be diluting their legislative powers.
Ssemujju encouraged the Speaker not to attend the meeting and instead urged him to delegate one of the Commissioners at Parliament to represent him.
Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko proposed that the Minister presents her issues virtually like has been done before, further reiterating that the House is setting a bad precedent that some matters are more important than others.
“We have handled issues on Health, Supplementary Budget here which are equally important. Why can’t the Minister present her issues virtually like has been before? How do we interact with her if it is not a sitting in the House? How shall we ask her questions and how shall she respond? Let us use the virtual space,” He said.
Kalungu West MP, Joseph Ssewungu advised that instead of spending taxpayers’ money on a meeting with the MPs, the money should be given to the different schools across the country that have been affected by the covid situation to aid their reopening come January 2022.
Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality MP) demanded to know from the Speaker whether they were dealing with the Minister of Education and Sports or the First lady of Uganda because according to her they have tried to have her appear before the Committee on Government Assurances and failed.
Oulanyah responded saying his decision to attend the meeting was based on the bigger issue of schools re-opening and that the MPs were at liberty to attend or not attend the meeting.
“I am thinking of the students, pupils and teachers. Banks are taking these schools. we have talked about these issues. If there is any debate to follow up, we shall reconvene and debate,” he rebutted.
Seeing that the MPs efforts to persuade the Speaker to invite the Minister to Parliament were unsuccessful, Ssemujju attempted to move a motion requiring the Minister to make her statement in a sitting of Parliament and not at Kololo.
Oulanyah rejected the motion on grounds that the motion was not sustainable in Law. He said the rules were clear on how to handle the Speaker’s guidance.
Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) then rose to ask that Parliament considers making such issues where Ministers summon MPs one of the procedural issues in the House.
“Can’t we think about making it one of the procedural issues in the House that a Minister can write to the Speaker seeking a semi-arrangement of the House, and it’s clear in the rules and they can write citing the rules in order to avoid these questions,” he asked.