By Tione Andsen – Mana.
Government said there was need for a careful consideration of school re-opening in order to balance benefits and potential implications of such a decision if we are to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Minister of Health, Khumbize Chiponda said this Wednesday during a Press Conference on weighing up risks of School closure and re-opening under Covid-19, When, Why, and What impacts at World Vision Malawi (WVM) Offices in Lilongwe.
She said government was aware that maintaining the current restrictions on school closure and other restrictions has detrimental social and economic consequences to the nation.
“Ministry through the Expert Group on Covid-19, a Group of Experts have came up with policy recommendations which were adopted by my Ministry to be shared with Ministry of Education Science and Technology last month,” Chiponda explained.
The Minister added that in line with guidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a country’s decision to re-open schools should be guided by a risk based approach to maximise the educational and health benefit for pupils, students, teachers, staff and wider community to help prevent and control spread of the virus in the community.
She said some of the factors to be considered when deciding to open or indeed for that matter to close schools include current epidemiology and clinical features, local context and epidemiology where schools are located and setting and capacity to maintain prevention and control measures.
The Minister said that efforts have been made by Government to introduce online learning, but this has proven to work to the disadvantage of the majority of pupils and students who cannot afford internet bundles, not to talk of laptops and smart phones hence depriving many of the right to education.
She stated that with strong multispectral collaboration and community involvement, it was possible to manage the pandemic and prevent its further spread through the three simple measures namely; washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, wearing a face mask, and observing physical distance.
World Vision Malawi (WVM) Director of Operations, Charles Chimombo said WVM calls for policy makers to consider the impacts of school closure on the education and protection outcomes of children and youth.
He said there was need to balance these impacts with a considered view of the health impacts and make informed child centres decisions on when and why to re-open schools.
The closure of schools in the country was announced on March 20, 2020 during the declaration of a State of Disaster by the previous government, as a precautionary measure, because at that time the country i did not have a confirmed case.