Fears as 300 000 pupils return to schools

22 June 2020 | Education

ELLANIE SMIT and KENYA KAMBOWE

WINDHOEK

Concerns are mounting over the further reopening of schools today after yesterday’s announcement that Namibia had recorded nine new coronavirus cases within 24 hours.

With phase two of the reopening of schools coming into effect today, about 300 000 learners are expected to return to class.

The education ministry yesterday said it planned to stick with its phased programme of reopening schools, which was adopted in conjunction with the health ministry.

“Of course, the situation will change all the time and as leaders we must understand there are dynamics to this situation and the dynamics will demand further consultation and a corresponding response,” said the ministry’s deputy executive director, Edda Bonn.

Bonn said if parents want to keep their children at home, it is their responsibility to ensure that the learners keep up with their schoolwork.

Health minister gives guidance

Education minister Anna Nghipondoka said during a visit to several Kavango West schools last week that if the health minister feels that it is not safe anymore, “he will advise us accordingly”.

When asked about schools that are not ready to open because of water and other challenges, Nghipondoka said: “What we are saying is that is that there is money that we made available for now to take care of some schools without water and ablution facilities.

“This is going to start happening; but mind you, this work was supposed to finish before schools reopen, but because of the protracted processes to make sure that we are doing things transparently, we are a bit delayed.

“So, all in all what we are saying is that we have money to build ablution facilities and take water to schools. Only those schools that are ready and have all the measures in place will reopen.”

Challenges

According to Bonn, school managers have reported that the enforcement of social distancing and wearing of masks has been challenging.

The ministry had received N$58 million for its Covid-19 response, some of which was used to buy locally made, reusable masks for learners.

“These masks have been produced and distributed throughout the regions by Saturday,” she said, adding that soap and hand sanitiser have also been distributed to schools.

Fear in Kavango

Meanwhile, the health directorate in Kavango East Region is awaiting the test results of a grade 11 learner at Linus Shashipapo Secondary School who reported to a local hospital with flu-like symptoms.

Chief medical officer Dr Abiola Adesina said the learner was admitted to the Nyangana Catholic Hospital on Thursday and was tested for the coronavirus the next day.

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