Schools walk Covid-19 tightrope

By yesterday afternoon, Namibia had recorded 9 719 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 101 deaths and 6 543 recoveries, which meant that there were still 3 075 active cases in the country.

14 September 2020 | Education

TUYEIMO HAIDULA

OSHAKATI



As learners in grades four, five and six return to schools today across the country and the Khomas Region also commences face-to-face classes for learners in grades seven, eight and nine, Namibian schools are walking a tightrope between resuming education and safeguarding the health of teachers and pupils.

Grade seven, eight and nine classes resumed last week, with the exception of Khomas, as part of a phased approach to reopening schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During this process, individual schools are closed for disinfection when Covid-19 cases are confirmed.

Last week, Namibian Sun established that at least seven schools were closed, most of them in the northern regions.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula confirmed yesterday afternoon that Namibia had recorded 9 719 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 101 deaths and 6 543 recoveries, which meant that there were still 3 075 active cases in the country.

While grades 10 to 12 have already been having face-to-face learning, the last batch of learners - pre-primary to grade three - will resume classes on 21 September.



Maintaining safety

Education ministry spokesperson Absalom Absalom assured parents that the ministry is working around the clock to maintain safety on schoolgrounds.

Initially, the ministry closed schools for 14 days after a Covid-19 case was recorded, but Absalom said this defeats the purpose of opening again, as cases continue to rise in the country.

“The solution now is to do contact tracing and once those traced are tested, results take two or three days and the schools can reopen again,” he said.

Absalom added that the ministry is working on ways to improve teaching methods under the current circumstances.



Closed schools

Ohangwena education director Isak Hamatwi last Wednesday confirmed that three schools in his region - Ongenga Senior Secondary School, Omungwelume Senior Secondary School and Ongha Senior Secondary School – were closed for disinfection.

The principal of Ongenga, Usko Muahafa, said the school was closed after a teacher tested positive.

“It does not involve the learners because the teacher did not come into contact with the learners. He did use one of the classrooms to do marking on 31 August, the day teachers resumed duty after the holiday, and the same classroom was used by the learners the following day, 1 September,” he said.

Muahafa added that 11 contacts have been traced and were tested last Tuesday. The test results were expected at the end of last week, and the school is expected to open today if all the contacts are given the all-clear.



Possible case

Omungwelume school principal George Nanghanda told Namibian Sun that one pupil, who had travelled from Windhoek, was flagged as a possible case and was sent home to self-isolate while waiting for the test results. The learner didn't attend class.

“When we announced his results at the school, learners came forward and we identified 17 who had come in contact with him. Some said they drank from the same cup and others shared a plate with him,” he said.

The school will remain closed until the 17 contacts have been quarantined and tested.



All teachers considered contacts

The acting education deputy director for Oshana, Hilma Nuunyango, said the region has only one closed school, Erundu Combined.

Nuunyango said a teacher tested positive and all staff members are considered as contacts.

Salomo Tenga, spokesperson for the Kavango West regional council, said the Olavi Sivute Combined School was closed last Wednesday after the test results of a teacher who had died on 7 September came back positive.

Paulus Lewin, the deputy director of programmes and quality assurance in the Khomas Region, added that two schools were closed to allow for disinfecting and contact tracing and to put teachers and parents at ease. Oshikoto, Erongo and //Karas have no closed schools at the moment.

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