As schools open from September 7 2020 for in-person learning in the face of coronavirus pandemic, parents are facing a whole new back-to-school to-do list. This includes teaching children how to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, adapt to new routines, handle awkward and potentially risky social interactions and cope with worries and anxiety.
So, along with books, pencils and lunchboxes, for those fortunate enough to afford food, parents will be packing backpacks with hand sanitiser and face masks. It is a whole new world for students, teachers and parents.
After months of online learning for a fortunate few and no school activity for the majority of children, many children will struggle with getting into a new routine. Many may find it hard to understand why they cannot hug or shake hands with a friend they haven’t seen of spoken for almost six months. This will probably be a tall order for many children, especially in primary schools.
Government must be commended for reopening schools amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The past months have been awash with reports of alarming numbers of girls falling pregnancies. Home which is supposed to a safe place for many children, is hell for some children who face abuse at home. The school offers a safe haven for such children.
However, it seems government is bowing down to pressure from some loud voices that have been calling for the reopening of schools. If truth be told, government is not fully prepared for the reopening of schools. The lack of preparedness can be drawn from what Minister of Education, Agnes NyaLonje said that assessment on readiness for reopening will be done from August 30, 2020—that is just a week before schools reopen on September 7. In other words, there is a high possibility that schools will reopen before being assessed and assessment will happen while schools are in session.
Many schools lack sufficient and potable water, toilets, soap, masks, textbooks and classrooms—and once these are supplied, schools will need time to establish safe routines. This cannot definitely be done within a week’s time.
One can only hope and pray that by the time schools reopen government would have put in place all the necessary measures to ensure learners’ safety and prevention of the spread of the disease. The least thing every Malawian wants right now is a spike in Covid-19 cases.