Children's Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
THE announcement last Sunday that public and private schools will open on January 22 for the new academic year elated most pupils and students, except those from University of Zambia (UNZA) and Copperbelt University (CBU).
This included my neighbour’s little granddaughter, Joy, who was excited at the prospect of going back to school because staying at home doing nothing was boring for her. Every morning, Joy would wake up early to ask her grandmother if that would be the day she would be allowed to go back to school.
After the festive period, little Joy was looking forward to going back to school in a new grade and to connect with some of her friends, some of whom she had not seen from the time schools closed in early December last year. She was therefore, very disappointed when she learnt that the recess would be extended for a few more weeks.
The decision to postpone the opening of schools and tertiary institutions was arrived at on January 3 after cholera cases kept rising, especially in Lusaka. Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya announced that Government had mounted a robust multi-sectoral approach to minimise infections, this included the deferment of opening of schools and tertiary institutions to enable health authorities to monitor the evolution of the outbreak.
Dr Chilufya explained that the countrywide postponement was meant to avoid gatherings in education facilities because some pupils and students come from areas that were the initial source of the epidemic would have put their colleagues from other areas at risk.
The minister noted that there were also pupils and students who were supposed to travel from Lusaka to various parts of the country; an action that would have exacerbated the situation. The period of deferment gave school authorities time to work to avoid possibilities of future outbreaks by working on access to clean and safe water because the drivers of cholera include consumption of contaminated water and food, poor waste management, and poor personal hygiene practices.
At the same briefing, Minister of General Education, Dennis Wanchinga said postponement was aimed at protecting millions of lives of those who would have been at risk, especially that poor cholera management can be fatal.
And Dr Wanchinga emphasised that following the re-opening of schools, inspectors from the Ministry of Health will be conducting checks to assess hygiene standards; those who will not comply with laid down procedures and regulations will be charged. This shows Government’s commitment to eliminate and avoid any future outbreaks of a disease that is often associated with bad sanitary conditions and unsafe water.
School administrations were also implored to enhance sanitation levels and teach good hygiene practices among pupils, if cholera is to be permanently eliminated.
As for UNZA and CBU, it is hoped that the sanitation and accommodation challenges will also be given priority so that students at the two institutions do not lag too far behind in comparison with their counterparts in other institutions. Longer delays will have undue pressure on students from these two institutions.
It is only through the change of mindset from an early age in relation to waste management, personal hygiene, consumption of contaminated water and food, that cholera will be eliminated for good.
However, it is not only the responsibility of school authorities to inculcate issues of good hygiene and waste disposal; families also have an important role to play by making a positive difference in the lives of young people.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, please stay safe and keep clean.
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