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Teachers want schools closed, parents adamant

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Agnes Nyalonje

Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum) has called on the government to temporarily close schools to pave the way for a disinfection exercise as a strategy for stemming cases of Covid-19.

The development comes after Education Minister Agnes Nyalonje announced on Thursday that 136 students from Lilongwe Girls Secondary School and 14 teachers from primary schools across the country had tested positive for coronavirus.

The number of those with coronavirus in the country has already hit 10, 494, as of Thursday, a development that has resulted in some constituent colleges of the University of Malawi, notably Chancellor College (Chanco), going on a temporary forced break to pave the way for disinfection exercises.

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A statement which Chanco Registrar Mary Wasiri signed on January 14 2021 indicates that 35 people have tested positive, including 14 staff members and 18 students.

She has announced that some staff members can work from home.

“In this regard we would like to inform you that the District Health Officer will disinfect the whole campus from Friday, 15th January 2021. May we all stay out of campus to pave [the] way for the disinfection exercise. Staff can access office facilities from Monday 18th January 2021,” Wasiri says.

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Taking a cue from Chanco, Tum has called for a temporary closure of schools to safeguard lives of teachers and learners.

Tum Secretary General Charles Kumchenga said Friday that the Covid-19 situation was getting scary, hence the need for government officials to quickly act and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“The case at Lilongwe girls secondary is one of the many cases [we are concerned with]. It is a challenge to learners and teachers. Just at one school, 136 students have tested positive, which is an indication that we have a pandemic on our hands,” he said.

Kumchenga said there was a need for the government to promote fumigation in schools as well as ensure the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“We must devise strong strategies for containing the spread of the virus in schools,” he said, adding that, in the event that the government failed to provide PPE, schools should be closed.

However, Association of Parents for University of Malawi Students Chairperson, Paul Chikwekwe, said universal closure would not be ideal.

“Instead, the government should swiftly adopt a case-by-case management approach when dealing with affected schools,” he said.

Chikwekwe further suggested that public officials should consider employing and deploying IPTE 13 teachers and graduates from different universities as well as promote the 40,000 teachers that have been on the waiting list.

Recently, Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala said the ministry continued to do assessments and spot checks to ensure that there was full compliance to all Covid-19 preventive measures and guidelines.

“In fact, the ministry has intensified and enhanced monitoring mechanisms to ensure that all education institutions are in full compliance. The ministry is also considering a number of interventions and guidelines in view of the changing dynamics,” he said.

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