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Demands for schools to close grow

2021-06-14  Albertina Nakale

Demands for schools to close grow
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Albertina Nakale

Namibia recorded a record 1 432 Covid-19 positive cases on Friday, and the Students Union of Namibia (SUN) has joined a
growing chorus of concerned Namibians demanding the immediate closure of schools. Since schools reopened late last month, most private and public schools, in particular in the Windhoek district and its surroundings, have constantly been closing due to the number of rising Covid-19 cases reported among staff and learners.

There’s growing concern because of the country’s rising Covid-19 positive cases. When minister of education, Anna Nghipondoka received a donation of beds from NamPower last week, she said “each day, we are faced with the difficulty of two competing priorities: keeping our learners safe versus keeping them in schools.”

Early last week, the ministry of education’s executive director (ED) Sanet Steenkamp said as many as 527 learners and 165 teachers have tested positive for Covid-19 countrywide, and were in isolation. Another issue that evoked fear is the reported Covid-19 death of a 14-year-old Grade 8 learner from the Hage Geingob High School in Windhoek. The new Covid-19 cases are geographically distributed across all regions, with the
Khomas Region extremely high with infections.

As the nation pins its hopes on the government regarding new measures on the current situation, Covid-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate. By Thursday, Namibia recorded a whopping 1 045 new Covid-19 confirmed cases from 3 178 test results. This prompted health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula to say “as a country, we have breached the 1 000 mark, which is the highest number reported since the pandemic started.”

By Saturday, Namibia recorded 1 399 new confirmed Covid-19 cases from 3 973 results in the last 24 hours. The age range of people who tested positive is from five days to 94 years. Due to the increasing cases, vaccination sites in Khomas have since been expanded, while sites were allowed to operate on Saturday between 09h00-16h00.

SUN spokesperson Tyson Hihanguapo said the union is gravely worried about the uncontrollable rise in Covid-19 cases in the past week. 

“We acknowledge the reality that the country has entered into the third wave of Covid-19, and the basic education fraternity is one of the affected sectors with the painful death of a 14-year-old Grade 8 learner, and the closure of many schools due to positive cases,” he stated.

Worse still, 17% of the positive cases recorded range in people between the ages of five and 19. 

“This is a clear message that the safety and wellbeing of learners is at risk with the current face-to-face teaching mode.

It is in light of the above information that we call for the closure of schools across the country for the whole month of June”, he added. Approached for comment, Steenkamp said consultations between various stakeholders are ongoing, and she can’t comment until an announcement is made officially. With Windhoek, Swakopmund, Rehoboth, Lüderitz, Okahandja, Keetmanshoop and Oshakati recording high numbers in the worrisome third wave, SUN fears the whole country will follow soon. “And we sadly fear for the lives of the learners as schools are central to this resurgence as safety protocols have been ignored”, they warned.

SUN thus pleaded with the education minister to suspend face-to-face teaching as an urgent action, and for the schools to utilise online facilities and other home-based teaching methods whilst the stakeholders discuss ways for teaching to continue without risking the lives of learners.

The Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) also held a consultative meeting last week on the increasing Covid cases in schools.

Nantu communicated to its members on Friday that a series of meetings took place between the stakeholders (Nantu, health authorities, education ministry and UNICEF).

The union furthermore conducted an evaluation assessment in about 40 schools in the Khomas region in order to establish the contributing factors to the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in schools.

Nantu indicated that the outcome of such assessment was shared with the
parties concerned for immediate action.

“After lengthy discussions on the matter, the parties made some recommendations to the highest authorities and the national Covid-19 dashboard monitoring committee for implementation. The nation should expect to be informed by the authorities at any time soon,” Nantu secretary general Loide Shaanika said.

Nantu therefore called on all its members, teachers, learners and parents to be patient as the matter is receiving the highest attention it deserves.

anakale@nepc.com.na


2021-06-14  Albertina Nakale

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