The Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) says it respects government’s decision to extend the closure of schools on account of the increasing number of cases of cholera.
ZANEC Executive Director George Hamusunga said the the decision significantly aligns with the public health recommendations from health experts.
Mr Hamusanga however said postponing the school reopening from January 29th to 12th February, will result in serious learning losses which will undermine the education recovery post COVID 19.
“For this reason, it is important that the Council of Ministers utilizes the evidence from the researches conducted by ZANEC with support from the Ministry of Education and UNICEF during the COVID 19 pandemic from 2020 to 2022 to mitigate the impact of the cholera epidemic on education,” Mr. Hamusunga said.
He said is is important for government to put in place adequate measures in the two weeks that schools will be closed to ensure that schools will have all the necessary requisites that will protect learners from cholera when they reopen.
“It was also not prudent to generalize the closure of schools in all parts of the country, the extended closure of schools should have been only in parts of the country that have cholera for example according to Zambia Cholera Situation Report Sitrep No. 23. Provinces like Muchinga, Western and Luapula have only recorded imported cases. Therefore, the closure should have been in the districts that are epicenters, have active cases or are at high risk.”
He added, “there is need for government through the Ministry of Finance to release adequate cholera epidemic response funding to the Ministry of Education to enable them put measures in schools that will ensure the health and safety of learners.”
Mr. Hamusunga observed that the tendency by government to think that investment in the health sector alone can also address the impact of the cholera epidemic on education is misplaced.
“For us, we attribute the failure to open schools to the lack of political will to support the Ministry of Education with the required resources to make our schools conducive for learning amidst the cholera epidemic.”
Mr. Hamusunga said the Ministry of Education must also be supported to deliver Alternative Modes of Education Provision that can help provide continuity of learning at home for children during the closure of schools.
“Unfortunately, although we all agree that the Education Broadcasting Services (EBS) is the panacea to our digital learning solutions in Zambia, the institution is poorly funded to the extent that they have not aired a single education programme for a year now. We would like to call upon government, through the Ministry of Finance to quickly fund EBS so that it can resume its work.”
He said, “ Furthermore, EBS must be given an express license to air education programmes countrywide to mitigate the current learning loss. This investment is critical in the long term for continued learning during calamities or natural disasters.”
He added, the Ministry of Education must start preparing for the re-opening of examination classes now so that in the event that the cases of cholera continue increasing for the next two weeks, learners in examination classes can be given the first priority to go back to school. The Ministry can leverage on its past experience in running examination classes amidst COVID 19 to reduce the loss of learning time among our 2024 examination candidates.”