My daughter was very excited on Wednesday evening with the news of the reopening of schools on Monday February 22 2021. This is the news she has wanted to hear ever-since the number of Covid-19 cases started to decline. During the past three weeks, every time I got home from work, I would be greeted with the same question: “Dad, has the President said anything about the opening of schools?” Then before giving her the negative response, I would try to calm her down and assure her that schools would reopen as soon as Covid-19 cases slowed down. And with this statement she keenly started following the daily Covid-19 updates—celebrating on those days the new cases and new deaths were dropping and very sad and depressed when they were rising.
I am sure my daughter is one of thousands of students across the country who are well motivated for school. This is the kind of spirit every parent and guardian desires and expects from their wards. It is the spirit that also energises parents to do their part of supporting and walking with them as the wards also do their part. They are supposed to work hard, behave well and keep away from distractions. Good grades are the ultimate prize both the wards and parents expect to get at the end of the day.
But unfortunately this spirit can easily fizzle out even among the most motivated students. The long school-break from—March to September last year due to the novel coronavirus—did just that to thousands of well motivated students. Girls are at a bigger disadvantage as reports from the last academic year when thousands—especially those in primary school—got pregnant or entered into early marriages thereby cutting short their academic pursuits. It was a disaster from a crisis no one was better prepared to stop.
Admitted no one has enough experience in dealing with the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought not only in the education sector but in all aspects of our lives. But as parents and guardians we expect that at a minimum, there will be a measure of diligence in handling the ripple effects the crisis that is Covid-19. Diligence is non-negotiable. Unfortunately in quite a number of instances, this has been lacking.
Take, for example, the directives the Ministry of Education issued when announcing the closure of schools some five weeks ago. Day scholars were ordered to stop going to school. The reason was to protect boarders and school officials. Boarders on the other hand were also ordered not to leave their school premises until they were tested and certified virus negative. Well and good. But where did the Ministry of Education expect the schools to get the facilities and personnel to do the testing? And would they access them free of charge? Did the schools have the resources to conduct such a task?
Eventually what happened is exactly what everybody—I think except Ministry of Education—expected. Most schools just closed and sent all students home without having them tested. A week later the Ministry of Education came with another pronouncement—that all boarders should go home and only return to school after getting tested and certified coronavirus free. Ironically this time round the same ministry did not care or forgot that the students returning home would infect their families since they had not been tested and certified coronavirus free. And while the national Covid-19 response purse was bulging with K6.2 billion, parents were supposed to take care of their wards bills for having them tested. We all know the tragedy that has befallen the K6.2 billion largese. I have a verse and a chapter for it later. Now we have the K5 billion booty to watch earmarked for face masks, hand sanitisers, bole holes. Another verse and chapter.
Fast forward to this week, when announcing the reopening of schools on Wednesday the Minister of Health put a disclaimer: That some schools will demand Covid-19 certificates for learners and asked parents to comply. My question: If the Covid-19 certificates are important, why leave it to the discretion of the schools to decide whether learners should have them or not as they return to school? Verdict: The option diminishes the importance of the certificates.
Then the timelines; parents and guardians have two working days only—Thursday and Friday—to send their wards back to school. During these two days they must raise all the school requirements including transport money for their wards regardless of how much is required. Come on, guys. This month has already ended. Why not just open schools on March 1 2021 to enable parents to prepare for the reopening of school? Of course, we are all happy our children are going back to school but we expect our Capital Hill leaders to do better.