Gender Gender

Back to school amid COVID-19: Reactions

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ALMOST two weeks ago, President Edgar Lungu announced that examination classes will begin lessons on June 1, while non-examination classes, including colleges and universities, would only reopen after the ministers of General Education and Higher Education had consulted on best practices and modalities to ensure the safety of all learners to prevent any possible outbreaks or spread of the disease.
Below is a parent’s reaction.

Dear Mrs Chilufya
I read with interest your column of last week entitled ‘Going back to school amid Covid-19’.  I would like to commend the President for taking the bold decision to open schools especially for examination classes. The continued closure would not only have a negative impact on the learners, but would ultimately burden the entire education system. For example, I do not think our education system has the capacity and resources to adequately manage a backlog if schools were to remain closed for much longer.
Furthermore, from experience, I know that some learners, especially those in lower grades, are only motivated to read or study when they are in a school setting or are in the presence of their classmates. For some, being at home is like an extended holiday where they spend their time sleeping or doing non-school-related activities like watching television or doing household chores. It is good that the President has encouraged all of us to embrace the ‘new normal’ while embracing safety measures. We do not know how long the disease will be with us. it could even be worse next year, so we have to find ways of going round it without putting the learners at risk. Some of the measures include letting learners go back to school, especially those in examination classes who have already lost two months of this year’s school calendar.
In as much as I want schools to reopen, as a parent, I am equally concerned about the safety of my daughter who is at a boarding school. It will be critical for school authorities to plan beforehand how they are going to manage the learners taking into account that some will be coming from Covid-19 hotspots, while others will be from areas that have not recorded any cases so far.
The Ministry of Health and school authorities should also be extra vigilant to ensure the safety of all learners through the provision of protective safety equipment as the President directed. I feel special attention should be given to learners from vulnerable backgrounds who will depend solely on government for their protection. Covid-19 is like a thief in the night, it comes silently and stealthily; one is never sure at what point they are likely to be exposed to the virus, which at the moment has no vaccine or cure.
May I propose that before June 1, the Ministry of Education and the  Ministry of Health should explain how they plan to manage the re-opening of schools and ensuring the safety of learners before we release our children in their care. It will certainly give parents a peace of mind.
Mrs J. Mubita, Ndola

In his address, President Lungu noted that keeping all learning institutions closed for much longer will disadvantage learners and this has the potential to create a crisis in the education calendar, a situation that will be extremely difficult to resolve going forward.
The President acknowledged that all classes are important, but with the Covid-19 outbreak, the ‘new normal’ is important to cautiously and strategically manage the reopening of schools. For this reason, initially, only examination classes would be allowed to reopen.
The President further directed the the Ministry of Health and the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit to ensure that face masks, hand washing soaps and santisers are distributed for use by learners by June 1 as one of the precautionary measures.
Covid-19 is real; stay at home and keep safe!

Remember, children are our future.
until next week, take care.
For comments: pcmalawochilufya@yahoo.com

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