As more learners return to school this week, some schools have started fine-tuning timetables to accommodate pupils by applying various methods such as the platoon system.
The system allows pupils in certain grades to attend classes in the morning and others in the afternoon. Some schools have been forced to consider this option due to overcrowding, an issue that poses a serious challenge in terms of social distancing and health protocol measures.
Education minister Anna Nghipondoka said this model of the provision was already common in areas where the population density and demand for space in schools is higher than the capacity of the existing infrastructure.
However, she said, it requires careful timetabling so that teachers work within the provisions per day. Another method to be employed is time-based cohorts.
This means the timetable is crafted in such a way it could accommodate learners in different grades on various days.
The other one is the distributed or combined group, where all the learners return to school but each class is divided into smaller sub-groups to learn in different locations at different times. For the remaining expected phases, Nghipondoka said the ministry would continue to consult all relevant stakeholders to ensure the school-readiness and eventual completion of the 2020 academic calendar.
However, Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha said the union does not support the reopening for grade 0-3.
“The reopening of the schools is premature and it is done for the sake of the ministry of education to be seen like it is doing something. That is why we are saying we are against it and we are not going to do anything about it,” Kavihuha reacted.
He said the government does not want to take responsibility for learners while in their care at schools.
“It is the pronouncement of President Hage Geingob when he said it is the choice of parents to take their kids back to school or not. This is a demonstration that the government is running away to take accountability for anything that could happen to these kids while at school. The prime minister said if anything happens at school, it is the teachers who have to be accountable. This further shows the government is running away from its responsibility,” Kavihuha charged.
He noted many rural schools do not have precautionary measures in terms of health standards as prescribed by the checklist provided by the government on health guidance.
He cited the Alpha Combined School in the Kunene region, which he said does not meet any single health measure as prescribed by health protocols.
Nghipondoka noted the ministry has disbursed thermo-guns and one mask per learner prior to the commencement of the next
“Close to 100% of the regions have made provision for clean classrooms and school environments. All the 14 regions have observed social distancing markings for their classrooms and hostels. The provision of clean running water and functional sanitation facilities remains a challenge. Regardless, schools should be commended for initiatives and – in most cases – their positive outlook in continuing education during the implementation,” she said last week in a ministerial statement in the National Assembly.
“I, therefore, strongly call upon all school principals to be honest in the assessment of their compliance standard checklists so that we do not put the lives of staff members and learners in jeopardy,” she appealed.
With regards to the Namibia School Feeding Programme (NSFP) offered to primary school learners, she said half of the regions do not have adequate individual utensils for the scheme and protective clothing, including gloves for the food handlers.
“Orders have been placed for the above-mentioned items but still awaiting delivery. Rest assured that all regions will be prepared to commence the NSFP when schools resume on 7 July 2020.”