All eyes will be on the country’s schools today as they start the first phase of the reopening process following a lengthy break of over 160 days which came as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Malawians and education analysts will be interested to see whether the schools, both public and private, have put in place the necessary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 which has so far claimed the lives of 175 people in the country since April this year.
Worthy observing would be whether the country’s schools, especially those in the rural areas would adhere to the set guidelines which include disinfecting schools following Centre for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, ensuring that all schools have hand washing facilities and that hand washing is enforced.
One encouraging thing will be the fact that teachers, who had earlier threatened to boycott classes over risk allowance and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) have agreed to go to work.
The teachers have since given Capital Hill two weeks to address their challenges.
Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum) General Secretary, Charles Kumchenga, has told The Daily Times that they met the Government Negotiating Team and the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education on Friday and Saturday, respectively to discuss their needs.
Pressed to mention their next action if government fails to provide the teachers’ needs, Kumchenga said “it is too early to say” their next course of action.
Education Rights activist, Benedicto Kondowe, has challenged the two parties to be sincere to each other and make sure that the right to education is not disturbed.
He says learners have already spent long time at home since schools closed, hence any further distraction will infringe their right to education.
“I urge the two sides to be sincere and honest to each other,” he said, adding that failure to do so has the ability to disturb education.
Government ordered the closure of schools across the country in March 20 this year as one way of containing the spread of Covid-19.
Last month President Lazarus Chakwera ordered that schools be reopened with strict adherence to Covid-19 precautionary measures.
Since the announcement, teachers have been pushing for government action to provide them with the needed support to keep them safe from contracting the novel coronavirus in the course of their duty.
Ministry of Education Spokesperson, Chikondi Chimala, Sunday said all arrangements are set and in place for reopening of schools.
Chimala said the Ministry is confident that things will go on smoothly as planned and that all institutions (both private and public) will adhere to the set measures and guidelines to ensure safe return to school is actualised.
“However, the Ministry will be conducting spot checks and continuous assessments to make sure that there is no slackening of standards by the schools to ensure safety of learners, students, teachers and the community at large,” Chimala said.
One thing for sure is that when schools open today, a good number of girls will be missing as they fell pregnant during the lengthy break.