Feature: Reopening of schools amidst spike in COVID-19 cases fuels debate in Zambia

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, January 13, 2021
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LUSAKA, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- As Zambia prepares to reopen schools next week, a debate has emerged whether the schools should be reopened or not following a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Zambia has witnessed a surge in COVID-19 cases during the second wave of the pandemic, with health authorities warning that huge gatherings are fueling the surge.

Ministry of General Education Jobbics Kalumba said schools will reopen on Jan. 18 and that the second calendar will not be disturbed by the COVID-19.

However, the announcement has opened a debate, with people expressing various views.

While some have questioned the government's decision to reopen schools as it will put the learners at a high risk of contracting the pandemic, others believe that the decision is in the right direction.

The Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC), a coalition of civil society organizations operating in the education sector, believes that there is no justifiable reason why schools should not go ahead and reopen.

George Hamusunga, the organization's executive director said there is no guarantee that if the reopening of schools is delayed, then COVID-19 cases will reduce.

According to him, failure to reopen schools will not help the learners who have affected academically when schools were abruptly closed last year due to the pandemic.

He urged schools to adapt to the new normal under the pandemic and start making preparations to ensure a safe learning environment for the learners.

However, Dr. Aaron Mujajati, one of the country's leading medical practitioners wondered whether it is appropriate for schools to reopen amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases.

He said authorities should reconsider the decision to reopen schools as the second wave of the pandemic is spreading rapidly and has affected nearly all parts of the country.

Dickson Jere, a lawyer and journalist said the Ministry of Health as the leading ministry in the fight against the pandemic should be in a better position to provide guidance on the matter.

"I think the Ministry of Health is the correct one to give directions on the reopening of schools next week amidst escalating COVID-19 cases. This is a public health pandemic and requires public health expertise," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Citizens have since provided various views on the matter.

Aaron Lungu, a resident of Lusaka, the country's capital says reopening schools is in the best interest of the learners because schools are the safest places for the learners unlike in the communities.

"This disease is meanwhile here to stay and for that reason we must learn to live with it hence life must continue," he said.

His views have been supported by Derrick Sitali who feels that the education sector is an important sector that is preparing young people for the future development of the country.

Sarah Banda believes that children will be saved from contracting the pandemic as they will be confined in school places unlike being left in the communities.

However, Lameck Sakala has advised the health ministry to ensure that there is strict adherence to preventive guidelines in all schools before they are reopened.

Schools, he said, should put in place available materials such as hand washing facilities, face masks as well as ensure social distancing in classrooms.

"The question should not be whether schools must open or not. It should be about what measures have been put in place to guarantee safety for the learners. COVID-19 is and will still be with us for the next coming months but that does not mean that pupils and students should just be made to roam about during this period," he said.

Indeed COVID-19 is here and adapting to it is vital for any sector. Enditem

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