President Edgar Lungu has announced, with caution, that the reopening of schools, slated for Monday, 18th January 2021, will
be delayed for two weeks to allow all education institutions to put in place covid-19 health guidelines aimed at protecting learners and teachers.
The President has since directed the Minister of Education and the Minister of Higher Education, in conjunction with other sectors, such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Local Government, to be “on top of things” and ensure all schools are ready for re-opening on Monday, 13″ February 2021, as the resumption of learning will depend on how ready each learning institution is.
The President is also aware of the financial challenges parents go through after the festive season and hopes they will use the two weeks to adequately prepare for the reopening of schools. President Lungu is concerned that there is a surge in covid-19 cases at the time the schools were to reopen and has heard the submissions of various stakeholders, including parents, guardians, and political leaders, hence the decision to delay the reopening.
“1 have heard the concerns of parents, guardians and other stakeholders, therefore, this decision is aimed at ensuring institutions of learning prepare adequately, and strictly adhere to public health regulations, guidelines, and certification, and also to allow for satisfactory, and adequate preparedness by ll relevant authorities, including parents and guardians,” the President has said.
The President will allow the reopening of schools in the context of living With the covid-19 pandemic under the New Normal, meaning the observance of masking up, social distancing, and hand-washing with Soap will be key. At home, remedies like steaming” (Ukufutikila) are also key.
President Lungu is cognisant of the threat covid-19 poses on populations and stresses that the protection of learners should not only be left to school authorities but that parents have a key role to play because the virus can only be transported to schools from homes.
The President also adds that closing schools indefinitely because of covid-9, as well, is not the answer because “we do not know when this disease will go away or whether it will go at all,” as espoused by the World Health Organisation.
The President further adds that the experience of last year when learners lost about seven months of learning and the subsequent period of reopening up to December when schools adopted the New Normal “teaches us that compliance to covid-19 health guidelines is the key to protecting learners as well as ensuring their education and career paths are not ruined.”
The President says, “Last year we heard of sad stories arising from the closure of schools due to covid-19 There were various juvenile delinquencies that destroyed the lives of some of the learners due to long stay at home. Digital platforms, as well, only helped children from well to do families. Even then there was no teacher-pupil contact and supervising children to be on computers was not the easiest task for parents.”
He adds, “Among the less privileged families in towns and rural areas, learners lost out because they do not have access to computers. So we have also learned from experience that staying at home is not the best for Our young ones. The President emphasized that the decision taken on reopening of schools may be varied depending on how covid-19 evolves and urged citizens not to politicize the fight against covid-19 because the disease has no political boundaries.
“We are in it together, let us fight covid-19 as one. I, further encourage citizens to embrace ‘steaming’ (Ukufutikia), using eucalyptus and other recommended herbs. Home-based herbal remedies can save lives, too,” the President said.
The President adds, “Depending on how the pandemic evolves, I will come back to provide further measures and guidance.