STREETS in the Central African country of Cameroon were full of children on Monday morning, marching towards their schools, seven months after they were closed due to restrictions aimed at to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Wearing masks and carrying backpacks full of books and stationery, nursery, primary and secondary school students were full of excitement to revisit schools and meet their friends after a long hiatus.
Cameroon announced the reopening of schools after seven months under strict guidelines, prepared by an expert committee.
The Central African country has recorded 20,924 coronavirus cases, with 19,764 recoveries and 420 deaths, according to Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
At a media briefing last week, the government said it was well-equipped for the upcoming school year. But asked parents to be responsible and help children to abide by strict guidelines to keep the pandemic away.
The higher education institutions will also open in the country on Oct. 15, according to Communication Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ntiabang K. Lerato,10, a sixth-grade student said she was excited to return to school after staying at home for over the past seven months.
‘’I have my mask and I will respect the school guidelines against the virus. It is a good thing to go back to school because I want to study and become a doctor. I hope the virus will be over soon so that everything should be normal again,’’ she said.
Her mother, Ntiabang Shaitou said she is also happy at the resumption of classes.
‘’The holidays were too long and uneventful. It seems like nothing was happening at all. It was hard to put up a learning program for the kids and then make them stick to it,” she said.
Government addresses Parents ‘concern
Parents across had expressed concern about the safety measures. But with the strict guidelines in place, they feel satisfied.
Shaitou said she was initially worried and was apprehended about the safety of kids.
“But I am thankful that in my country the situation is not as alarming as in some countries in Europe. Our children have done their COVID-19 test and it is negative,” she added.
The mother of two kids said schools have taken steps to ensure everyone starts school with a negative COVID-19 test. She, however, said parents are anxious to see what the coming weeks will look like.
Minister of Secondary Education Nalova Lyonga has assured that the government has taken enough measures to fight against the spread of the pandemic. She said students will be imparted lessons every day on the pandemic and guidelines to ensure they abide by measures like wearing the face mask and other preventive measures.
“We are preparing for the new school year now following the instructions of the hierarchy. We have cleaned up the whole campus, we are going to respect the rule of 50 students per class,’‘said Bayiha Mahop Joshua, principal of the Oyack High School in the commercial city of Douala.
He said they have also arranged to take temperatures of students and teachers at the entrance of the school. Also, instructions have been given to test all teachers.
In August, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urged African governments to promote the safe reopening of schools while taking measures to limit the spread of the virus.
“Schools have paved the way to success for many Africans. They also provide a haven for many children in challenging circumstances to develop and thrive,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said.
A secondary school teacher in a remote area of Nikolagoung Foe Nicole Peagie said despite lack of manpower, his community will respect the barriers and will do everything possible to keep the pandemic away while performing his duties.
“I don’t think there is any particular danger, because a lot of measures are being taken to ensure that the new school year takes off under the best possible conditions. I think it will be safe,” said Ines Mekawe another teacher.