Today is the last working day before schools reopen for the semi-candidate classes. This is part of the staggered reopening of learning institutions that started with the resumption of studies by the candidate classes of Senior Four and Senior Six and finalists at universities and other tertiary institutions on October 15 last year.
On March 20, 2020, government directed for the closure of all schools, sending nearly 15 million learners home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The learners remained home for between nine months and one year.
But as schools prepare to reopen doors to semi-candidate classes on March 1, it is emerging that the ministries of Health and Education are not reading from the same script on the way forward (see yesterday’s Daily Monitor ) .
While the Ministry of Health has issued stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines to the Education ministry requiring them to strictly enforce all the SOPs, Education officials are advocating relaxation of some SOPs that they deem are difficult to implement under the circumstances.
They cite implementing social distancing as a big challenge to schools, unlike washing hands and wearing facemasks that are easy to enforce. However, the Health Ministry National Covid-19 Taskforce, has rejected any move to relax SOPs, more so social distancing.
Our concern is that the ministries of Education and Health had nearly a whole year during Covid-19 lockdown to harmonise their positions on SOPs and other issues relating to reopening of learning institutions. Opening the debate now when learners are set to return to school on Monday sends worrying signal to students, parents and all other education stakeholders. This shouldn’t be the case.
But most important, other than announcing the date for semi-candidate classes to resume studies, the government should have also made pronouncements on tuition, methods of payment, what schools or parents can provide, and above all, what specific innervations it is making to bail out either parents or schools from the financial quagmire they are in due to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In particular, given the impact Covid-19 has visited, especially to private schools, what stimulus package has government earmarked for schools to provide a conducive environment for the learners? Many of these schools are servicing loans and they need urgent government rescue.
Will government subsidise costs of power, water, sanitisers, facemasks, soap, etc., the schools need to facilitate learning amid Covid-19?It is not enough for parents to pay fees, provide scholastic materials and retake their children to school, only for government to close them again due to increase of Covid-19.