Education authorities yesterday abruptly cancelled today’s return to school pending an announcement by President Hage Geingob later this afternoon.
With an upsurge of new Covid-19 cases in the country, many education stakeholders have come out strongly in demanding the immediate suspension of face-to-face classes for all grades.
The lower primary grades 1-3 as well pre-primary learners were expected to resume classes today.
Grade 11 and 12 learners resumed classes early last month. However, education minister Anna Nghipondoka announced in a statement that the President would give direction today.
“Further communication will be issued after the President’s announcement. Continued efforts are geared towards ensuring the health and safety of staff members and learners,” said Nghipondoka.
There are 55 confirmed cases in the country at the moment.
Prior to the minister’s announcement, the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu), who were initially in favour of schools to reopen, made a dramatic U-turn and called for the immediate suspension of face-to-face learning for 14 days while the government monitors the situation and carries out a comprehensive assessment on the way forward.
“Given the update on Covid-19 in our country so far, and with the confirmation by the minister of health about local transmission cases that were detected in the country, Nantu is demanding the immediate suspension of face-to-face schooling for all grades,” said Nantu secretary general Loide Shaanika.
Calls to suspend contact classes were fuelled after a 20-year-old learner of a Mariental school who had travelled from coronavirus-exposed Walvis Bay, tested positive. Shaanika said despite Nantu’s appreciation of temporary measures put in place specifically for Mariental High School, the union strongly feels that the situation is no longer safe and poses a danger to the school community.
The school has since taken steps to keep all learners at home as a safety measure.
Former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa says the 2020 academic year is lost even though the education authorities are desperately trying to save it.
“I would really spend my efforts and energy on revamping and upgrading school and hostel facilities. I am more scared of the reopening of the primary phase as the control of the little ones is more difficult. I would never allow the small ones to go back. Rather keep children safe and alive and lose a school year. Losing a school year and having my child alive is better,” she reacted.
The Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) also added its voice, saying that while it recognised the effort by the government to navigate through the unprecedented education challenges amidst Covid-19, they strongly feel the worst is still to come particularly if the junior primary (grades 0-3) start with face-to-face classes today.
SPYL secretary for information Gerson Lineekela Dumeni said it is not safe for learners to return to school as anticipated because their level of growth and development makes them more vulnerable than senior secondary learners.
“As we continue observing the escalating local transmissions of the virus daily, we further advise the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to suspend face-to-face classes for grades 0 - 10 until 3 August. During the period June - August schools should operate within the provision of stage two of the emergency regulations with the exception of Erongo region which should remain in stage one of the emergency regulations,” Dumeni suggested.
SPYL feels grades 11-12 should continue with face-to-face classes. However, the education ministry should ensure that these learners are not commuting from home to school as they can possibly contract the virus on their way to and from school. Therefore, SPYL suggests their teaching and learning take place under the confinement of boarding schools.
The Nudo Youth League also wants face-to-face classes to be suspended with immediate effect.
“We want to call upon the head of state to intervene in this matter – we have trust and faith in the head of state as from the beginning, and he claims to prioritise the lives of Namibians more than anything. In the same vein we want to encourage all the parents and guardians not to send their children to school as from Monday. If the government does not adhere to our call then it’s your obligation as parents to keep your children safe from this pandemic,” Nudo youth league acting secretary general Veparura Kandirikirira reacted.
Kandirikirira appealed to all parents to consider their children’s well-being and keep them safe.
“It is also high time our reputed traditional authorities convene and instruct their subjects not to entertain this barbaric behaviour of the line ministry,” he said.
2020-06-22 08:58:14 | 1 months ago