WHILE it is understandable that government is under pressure to normalise many of the country’s sectors in the wake of the lockdown implemented to contain the potential spread of the virulent coronavirus (COVID-19), we feel it may be too early to open schools at the moment.
One of the painful realities we must embrace as a nation is that a significant chunk of the school calendar has gone to waste and it is really nobody’s fault.
But it must be made clear that re-opening schools at a time when we are still recording new COVID-19 cases is not a wise and well-thought-out decision as it places our children at risk. It will be like playing Russian Roulette with schoolchildren’s lives.
Considering the nature of children, having them put on face masks all day at school while maintaining social distancing is easier said than done.
Naturally, children like to play and often get physical at school, while at the same time a mask can bring some discomfort. So there is need to seriously think about all these things before schools are re-opened. Understandably, these and many other issues including sanitisation and screening need to be thrashed out first.
Parents and teachers have expressed fears over all these issues after government announced plans to re-open schools in about a month’s time and one can appreciate their fears.
A place like a school can easily become a hub of COVID-19 infections if just one person, be it a teacher, member of staff or pupil gets infected.
We do not believe that we are ready for schools to re-open as long as we have not effectively contained the outreak.
Issues that include provision of running water and improving teacher-student ratio in schools need to be considered. Many of our schools have very high teacher-student ratios, and this can cause a nightmare when there is need to implement social distancing.
Obviously, in the majority of schools, this will be impossible. And more critical is the question on whether or not teachers have been equipped to identify and manage COVID-19 cases in the event that they arise.
Do we have the capacity to test all teachers and learners beyond checking for temperature before schools open? If not, then would it be wiser to go ahead with this?
Sadly, the poor management of national resources has come to haunt us.
If we had invested in our education system to be able to fully offer e-learning services by equipping schools and cascading the benefits to homes, we would be having just a few headaches.
We should indeed draw lessons from this new curve for the future.