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Government urged to keep watch as Covid hits schools

Chikondi Chimala

George Jobe

By Imam Wali

Amid reports of some schools in the country recording rising Covid-19 cases, government has been urged to keep a close watch on developments and tread cautiously, in light of its decision not to close down schools.

Health rights activist, George Jobe, was reacting to reports that some teachers and learners have contracted coronavirus in some schools and public universities across the country.

Speaking to Malawi News in Ntcheu District, deputy headteacher for Gunde Primary School in Ntcheu, Joseph Damiano, who tested Covid-19 positive on Monday, said last week alone, the school registered 42 percent absenteeism rate following a flu outbreak, which is one of the symptoms and signs of Covid-19.

He said the issue was reported to health authorities.

“The condition as of these past few days was bad; one learner tested Covid-19 positive last week and this week, two learners have tested positive as well. I am also on self-quarantine after testing positive on Monday,” Damiano said.

He added that classes are being held in congested classrooms and some students are attending classes without having masks.

He added that the nearest health facility is located 9 Kilometres away from the school.

In Dedza, according to Director of Education, George Ngaiyaye, only two teachers have tested Covid-19 positive so far.

A Primary Education Advisor for Chilanga Zone in the district, Florence Kapatuka Donda, said the Covid-19 pandemic has in a way affected education in the area as some learners have dropped out of school.

“Some learners didn’t come back after the first and second waves of Covid. It has led to laziness among some teachers and learners…it has changed the performance of learners to average, some school development projects have also stalled due to Covid-19. Extracurricular activities are not taking place,” she said.

She however said Chilanga Zone has so far not registered any Covid-19 case recently and that the zone has received enough preventive materials from government and other education partners such as United Purpose and Welt Hunger Health.

Commenting on the developments, Jobe, who is also Executive Director of Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), said government should keep a close eye on schools.

“There is need for a fact-finding mission and if necessary, government can then reconsider its position. You may recall the time schools were closed, beside learners’ performance being affected, a lot of them got married and others were impregnated,” he added.

However, in a written response, Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala, said the ministry has remained vigilant in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Ministry, with guidance from the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, has enhanced its vigilance through frequent inspections, spots checks and monitoring of all education institutions to make sure that they are all adhering to the preventive measures,” he said.

The third wave of the Covid-19 has hit the country hard, and on Thursday alone, Malawi recorded 952 new cases. By the same day, a total of 1,410 deaths had been recorded since the first death was recorded on April 2, 2020.

Government has since emphasised that there are no plans to close schools as was the case during the first and second wave.

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