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Ministry’s position on school stirs debate

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Benedicto Kondowe

The government’s decision not to close schools—amid surging cases of Covid-19—has stirred debate among organisations and individuals as some are asking the government to close schools while others believe schools should remain open.

Recently, Ministry of Education Principal Secretary Chikondano Mussa ruled out the possibility of closing schools.

However, the recent increase in the number of those contracting the disease and those dying has prompted guardians and other organisations to ask the government to rescind its decision.

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Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), in a statement that was issued on Tuesday, asked the government to consider closing schools as the Covid-19 death toll rises.

HRDC, which last year obtained an injunction against implementation of a partial lockdown during the first wave of the novel coronavirus, says the new wave and strain of Covid-19 are affecting all age groups in equal measure.

In the statement, HRDC Chairperson Gift Trapence and National Coordinator Luke Tembo also ask the government to consider closing all bars.

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The human rights defenders say Malawi’s only hope in containing the marauding virus is to employ and tighten all preventive strategies that are at the country’s disposal.

“We need government and all development partners to direct their resources towards making sure that our health system is equipped to absorb the shocks of Covid19. It is time that we create more bed space, buy ventilators in our hospitals. It is also time that we decentralise the Covid-19 response mechanism to district hospitals.

“Let us recruit more health providers to help tame the virus. The virus has stretched our providers. They are overwhelmed and tired. They are being exposed to the virus and they need personal protective gears now,” the statement reads.

Meanwhile, Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) has opposed the call to abruptly close schools.

Csec Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe and Board Chairperson Jennifer Mkandawire say such a decision would have dire consequences that would be irrevocable for decades to come.

The education advocates want such a decision to be informed by research.

“In the case of a partial or full lock down, the government should also allow form four students who are sitting examinations and those that are about to finish their academic year wind up,” Kondowe says.

In an earlier interview, Co-Chairperson of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 John Phuka and Mussa ruled out the possibility of closing schools.

Phuka said ordering the closure of schools would be a strategy of last resort.

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