THE Department of Basic Education has delayed the reopening of public and private schools until February 15 as the country fights a second wave of COVID-19.
Deputy Basic Education Minister Reginah Mhaule said the decision to delay the opening of schools was taken by the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) in conjunction with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) and the Cabinet.
School management teams, made up of senior teachers and principals, will begin work on January 25.
Other teachers will report for duty on February 1.
“We have consulted with all education stakeholders and have agreed to delay the reopening of schools. Given the pressure experienced by the health system in the past few weeks, occasioned by increased COVID-19 infections which has led to the second wave, the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) in conjunction with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) and Cabinet, has taken the decision to delay the reopening of both public and private schools with two weeks,” said Mhaule.
“This includes private schools that have reopened already. They will need to postpone their reopening to a later date. This is done to provide relief to the health system which is already struggling to cope with the current demands. The new dates for the reopening of private schools will vary depending on the calendar that they follow.”
Mhaule has also called on all private schools that have already reopened this week to close until February 15 due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We are all affected by the virus, including private schools. We therefore urge everyone to adhere to the call for the reopening of schools to be delayed,” said Mhaule.
Private schools that have already reopened will have to postpone their reopening to a later date.
She said while government cannot force private schools to suspend classes until February 15, it urged them to nonetheless heed the call in the interest of learners and teachers.
“We decided that this will also help ease the country’s healthcare system because learners will not be exposed to the virus in large numbers at school,” said Mhaule.
Elleck Nchabeleng, the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Education, Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture, has welcomed the announcement that the reopening of schools will be delayed by two weeks.
Nchabeleng called on the Department of Basic Education to take its cue from the National Coronavirus Command Council on the reopening of schools.
“Government’s voice is the only credible one for guidance on matters of education and COVID-19,” said Nchabeleng.
“Other voices on the matter have the potential to sow confusion and indecisiveness as they are not based on expert advice but populism. The disruptive effect of COVID-19 on schools demands that we listen to credible and knowledgeable voices.”
Nchabeleng said the Department of Basic education needs to build on experiences from last year.
“We have experience on this matter. Let us use that to better prepare and implement plans,” he said.
“The Department should facilitate online learning where it is possible to do so. Class rotation systems should be enhanced, and schools need to ensure that sufficient teaching occurs.”
Nchabeleng called on the Department of Basic Education to ensure that all required materials like personal protective equipment, sanitisers and adequate water provisions were available in every school ahead of reopening and that all safety measures are adhered to at all times.
(SOURCE: INSIDE EDUCATION)