Mbabane: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday, called on decision makers to reflect on a number of key factors when deciding on whether and how to reopen schools.
“First, a clear understanding about current Covid-19 transmission and severity of the virus in children is needed. Second, the epidemiology of Covid-19 where the school is geographically located needs to be considered. “Third, the ability to maintain Covid-19 prevention and control measures within the school setting,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“When reflecting on the decision to reopen schools, the local government should assess the capacity of the schools to maintain infection, prevention and control measures.” Efforts to pave a way to restart schools in South Africa stalled after school management teams, who were supposed to report at school on Monday, were directed not to come. According to Eswatini Observer on Thursday, May 7, Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard-Mabuza said that the 2020 academic year was far from being scrapped because government was still adopting the principle used by South Africa.
However, on Friday, teacher’s union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union said its members would not be going back to work on because the department of basic education has failed to meet the minimum requirements to ensure safety measures have been put in place. Basic education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on 30 April that school management teams should report for duty on 11 May, teachers on 18 May with the view that Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners would return to classes on 1 June.
Mabuza was quoted by Eswatini Observer as saying completing classes would be the first to resume lessons as they have to prepare for examinations, adding that the first group will be STD V, Form III and Form V because they were the most crucial ones. The minister went onto say the reopening of schools would not be done overnight as a lot of preparations had to be undertaken which include providing clean water and soap for proper washing of hands, providing sanitizers as well as ensuring social distancing among the pupils.
Shortly after that, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), SNAT presented 15 demands to government to meet before considering to open schools. These demands included disinfecting all the 970 schools (Primary and High Schools) and the 30 tertiary institutions (public and private) before opening them for continuation of the academic calendar that has already been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Another demand was that government should deploy nurses in the learning institutions so to conduct massive testing for teachers and students upon arrival at the schools. The demands did not go down well with government, thus alleging that this was their idea which they were on working on to implement before opening schools.
Through a statement issued by SNAT General Secretary, Sikelela Dlamini, SNAT refuted the allegations that SNAT imitated the suggested requirements from the education ministry, further branding such as an insult to the intelligence of the 14 000 teachers who are members of the association country-wide.
Dlamini said SNAT has not been part and parcel of the deliberations of the Education Sector Team (SMT), hence there is no way SNAT could have got the information from the ministry but this act by the minister suggest that she (Mabuza) does not trust the SMT with confidential information. The SNAT secretary general labeled the act of the minister as an irritational and undermining the Labour laws of the country. Dlamini went on to say, Mabuza who is a Member of Parliament from Mafutseni constituency is not a member of the SNAT but rather a member of the Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA) which is legally registered but not recognized. Mabuza is therefore trying to recognize SWAPA by including them (SWAPA) in all consultative meetings held at the ministry.
Minister Mabuza, before being elected to be the MP and appointment to Cabinet was the Principal for one the schools in the kingdom. “The stinking attitude that the Mafutseni MP has towards SNAT cannot water down efforts to represent interest of our members” reads the statement. The WHO noted that more than four million cases of Covid-19 across the world have been registered.
“Over the past week several countries have started lifting stay at home orders and other restrictions in a phased way. Last week Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini announced that schools would remain closed, but the ministry would later on provide directions on what would happen next. Countries put these stringent measures in place, sometimes called lockdowns, in response to intense transmission.
“Many have used the time to ramp up their ability to test, trace, isolate and care for patients, which is the best way to track the virus, slow the spread and take pressure off the health systems,” the world health body boss said. He said a slow, steady, lifting of lockdowns was key to both stimulating economies, while also keeping a vigilant eye on the virus so that control measures could be quickly implemented if an upswing in cases was identified. “Over the weekend we saw signs of the challenges that may lie ahead. In the Republic of Korea, bars and clubs were shut as a confirmed case led to many contacts being traced. In Wuhan, China, the first cluster of cases since their lockdown was lifted was identified.
“Germany has also reported an increase in cases since an easing of restrictions. Fortunately, all three countries have systems in place to detect and respond to a resurgence in cases,” he said