More than 30k pupils ‘fall through cracks’

Schools to reopen on 26 January

14 January 2021 | Education

Henriëtte Lamprecht







WINDHOEK

More than 30 000 pupils did not return to school last year when face-to-face learning resumed.

This is according to education minister Anna Nghipondoka, who said "they fell through the cracks and we were unable to find them”.

According to her, the number of pregnancies among schoolgirls during the closure of schools has also doubled. From March to September, 3 600 schoolgirls fell pregnant.

Despite the number of Covid-19 cases soaring in recent weeks, schools will reopen on 26 January, the ministry's executive director, Sanet Steenkamp, said. "Research has shown that it is more detrimental to close schools and it is better to manage the risks and the situation," Nghipondoka added.

Last year, pre-primary to grade three pupils missed 104 school days; grade four, five and six 119 days, grade seven and nine 109 days, grade eight 104 days, grade 10 78 days and grade 11 and 12 53 days.

Postponement ‘a last resort’

"The postponement of the schools' reopening is only regarded as a last resort," Steenkamp said, adding that education and training must continue. “Accessible, equal and quality education for every Namibian child remains the ministry's highest priority in 2021.

"With the right precautions, measures and regulations, it is possible to continue with face-to-face teaching while still ensuring the safety and health of teachers and pupils," she said.

Steenkamp further said there is no evidence that schools and teaching institutions are the primary drivers of the spread of Covid-19.

"Teachers and staff at schools are not in greater danger than any other profession of being exposed to Covid-19. Since the reopening of schools between August and September last year, no increase in infections has been reported that can be attributed to this.”

The education ministry has availed N$56 million for schools to procure disinfectants, soap and other precautionary measures for returning pupils.

Meanwhile, Nghipondoka said no child was seriously ill or was hospitalised at schools where Covid-19 cases were recorded amongst teachers and/or pupils.

"We have five schools where there were sporadic cases, but the children were asymptomatic. Of course, they can still transmit the virus, which is why hygiene in the home is so important.”

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