Expert suggests universal postponement of school reopening


An education expert has suggested that the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and Cholera should extend suspension of school reopening to all districts in the country, saying cholera has not spared any district.

This comes as the Taskforce on Monday morning January 2nd 2023 announced that Schools in the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre will not be opening on 3rd January as expected amid rising cases of cholera and it is reported that they will be delayed for two more weeks.

According to a Statement from the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and Cholera, the decision which affects both Primary and Secondary in public and private schools, has been made to prevent further spread of cholera.

However, education expert Benedicto Kondowe who is also the Executive Director of Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) says while cholera is a threat and remains as such, a decision like this should not have been made as an afterthought.

In an Interview with Malawi24, Kondowe said government and the taskforce have known about the cholera and the rising cases for some time and therefore, the decision should have been made promptly to avoid unnecessary panicking where some students had already travelled to their schools.

He said it is very surprising that the taskforce resorted to suspending the reopening of Blantyre and Lilongwe districts only when there are other districts including Mangochi and Dowa which he said have registered more cholera cases than the two cities and has since suggested an universal suspension of school reopening.

“The decision overlooks the fact that not all students in the districts are coming from their respective districts. There will be interaction among students from other districts including those from the two cities. What safeguards have been put in place to mitigate the spread of the disease? This is more crucial considering that no requisite capacities have been built in the schools including those in the districts across the country.

“Considering that no districts have been spared from cholera plus the anticipated interaction or mixing of students, perhaps a bold decision should have made to universally postpone reopening for a week or two to use that time to strengthen vaccination and safety safeguards of the schools as well as sensitising the communities. This would mean that the extension if any would equally be universal thereby maintaining the harmonised academic calendar,” reacted Kondowe.

The education expert concluded that this signifies that there was no dialogue between the ministries of health and education and has warned that lack of coordination is recipe for disaster as in that case schools could remain ill-prepared for the disease.

Concurrently, another expert Limbani Nsapato wrote on his Facebook page that while authorities try to save lives, decision making should be timely and should be coordinated across all the Ministries arguing that late decisions inconvenience parents, children and school owners at a time the economy is tight.

On the other hand, president for Private Schools Association of Malawi (PRISAM) Amon Mtafya, said though the decision has been made to prevent further spread of the pandemic, it is was imperative to be considerate of students who will be seating for their PSLCE, JCE and MSCE examinations this year.

“As for PRISAM, we have welcomed the decision because we know that good education goes together with good health. However, the government should have informed us about the change way back. Our plea to the taskforce is that they should allow students who will be sitting for their exams this year to go to their schools so that they should continue preparing for exams,” said Mtafya.

As of Sunday 1st January, 2023, the country had accumutively registered 17824 cholera cases with 595 deaths.

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