Ministry U-turns on classes

…amid calls for survivors’ relocation


By Patience Lunda:

In the aftermath of the Cyclone Freddy-induced disaster in the Southern Region, that has seen hundreds of lives lost and many people displaced from ruined homes, the Ministry of Education is shelving plans to halt classes in some of the affected districts where, in most cases, some of the victims were being housed in classroom blocks.

This comes just days after it had announced that schools should close in districts such as Blantyre, Mwanza and Mulanje, earlier than the scheduled March 31 for this term and that they should only re-open on April 17.


The move had triggered questions from some within the society, who felt learners would be hard done by as their colleagues in other regions would continue with their classes, which might in the end affect performance during examinations.

Addressing the press in Lilongwe on Thursday, Minister of Education Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima said her ministry has decided to re-open the schools since the situation has normalized in the said districts, which are Blantyre Urban, Neno, Mwanza and Zomba Urban.

She says the schools that are resuming physical classes should remain open until July 21, 2023 to cover for time that has been lost during the brief closure, which means they will not break for a holiday.


Those in boarding schools in the affected districts, she says, should close for one week and return to school on April 10, 2023.

While some of the victims that were in evacuation camps in places such as Blantyre’s Nyambadwe Primary School have returned to their homes, there are still many others that are yet to find their footing and are nestled in schools; which means those handling disaster affairs might now be forced to look for new camps.

Just the other day, politician Atupele Muluzi had suggested the need for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) to relocate Cyclone Freddy victims to places such as stadiums as camps and not school blocks, bemoaning that learning had been disrupted.

Writing on his Facebook page, Muluzi had opined that the use of stadiums would allow DoDMA to also maximize security of children and women as well as careful coordination of rescue efforts and identification of real victims.

“The Ministry of Education needs to think about a solution for the graduating class by re-opening classes as soon as possible as there is a serious disruption of learning. Tents, mobile toilets and health assistance is now available and these need to be set up as quickly as possible,” he wrote.

On his part, Water and Environmental Sanitation Network (Wesnet) Executive Director, Willies Mwandira said stadiums would be ideal only if they could be provided with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) equipment.

Mwandira suggested the need for government to construct evacuation centres in strategic places across the country as a lasting solution.

“Indeed the school curriculum is being disrupted and this is not the last cyclone that will affect the country which is why the government needs to set up evacuation centres in strategic places across the country, which should have all necessary facilities,” he said.

DoDMA spokesperson, Chipiliro Khamula, described the damage caused by the cyclone-induced disaster as huge and that placement of the displaced communities in schools was inevitable.

Nonetheless, Khamula disclosed that the department is working in collaboration with the shelter cluster to have displaced people in schools moved to temporary shelters.

“We have always worked towards ensuring that classes are not disrupted in case of disasters hence our continued efforts in constructing evacuation centres in disaster prone areas,” he said.

Cyclone Freddy had by Thursday March 23, 2023 displaced nearly 562,415people with 576 camps, with schools being a focal point of response as they are housing many displaced people.

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