The Ministry of Education has disclosed that it will spend K5 billion on improved sanitation and spacing in schools across country as some of the interventions as schools prepare to reopen on February 22.
Education Minister Agnes NyaLonje said this in Lilongwe during the Covid daily briefing, further indicating that her ministry had been provided with K5 billion from the K17.5 billion that the Treasury has released to aid the fight against the pandemic.
Part of the funds will be used for purchasing equipment, including that for hand-washing, as the ministry is set to distribute it to schools across the country.
She said the money had been provided directly to schools through zonal accounts and would be used for, among other interventions, drilling 640 boreholes at a cost of K3 million each to improve standards of hygiene.
“We are also buying portable boards [at K35,000 each] because we know that most of our learners still have to learn outside [physical blocks] because the speed at which we can construct them will not match what we want to do,” Nyalonje said.
Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said Presidential Taskforce on Covid members agreed that all schools should be opened on Monday after noting a decrease in new cases being registered in the country every 24 hours.
She said at the time the decision to extend school-closure time was being made, the daily positivity rate was around 30 percent but Wednesday declined to 16.2 percent.
“What we wanted most is to make sure that, when opening schools, our students and teachers should not be at risk.
“We have to take note that at the time we closed schools, some of our teachers had also tested positive for coronavirus and were quarantined. We needed to give them time to recover,” Kandodo Chiponda said.
Civil Society Education Coalition Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe has welcomed the development, but emphasised that the government should allocate more resources to education sector Covid response programmes.
“If, indeed, the government has done the spot-checks and officials are 100 percent sure that what they wanted to do within the schools has been done, then there is no reason to further extend the time of suspension,” he said.
Independent Schools Association of Malawi President Joseph Patel has also commended the government for the decision.
“This is a very welcome idea and we know that students will be concentrating on their education because, this year, Junior Certificate of Education examinations have been re-introduced. So, we should be preparing learners for examinations. It is a busy year,” he said.
Chiponda indicated, that, within 24 hours, 213 new coronavirus cases had been recorded while 518 patients had recovered.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.