President Lazarus Chakwera’s plan to attend the Kamuzu Academy Founder’s Day has sparked controversy with some parents expressing fears of coronavirus risk at the private institution that hitherto barred external visitors.
But in a letter dated November 6 2020 signed by Kamuzu Academy deputy head teacher, the school management acknowledges concerns raised by parents, but indicates that the event will proceed with strict observation of Covid-19 guidelines.
Reads the letter in part: “This year’s Founder’s Day has become something of national interest since the President is the guest of honour.
“His Excellency was given an entirely free choice whether to come to the academy or not. He chose to [attend] so the event is not simply an academy function, but by way being a State occasion.
“We have, however, endeavoured to take serious precaution which we hope will heavily mitigate the risk of Covid-19.”
The measures put in place include provision of masks at the gate, hand sanitisers to visitors, restricting community participation only to traditional leaders and observing physical distancing.
The President’s visit to the school comes against the background of the institution stopping parents’ visits as a precautionary measure against coronavirus. Efforts by parents and guardians for the institution to have a mid-term holiday and allow visitors on Mother’s Day public holiday on October 15 also hit a snag.
In an interview yesterday, Kamuzu Academy Parents and Teachers Association chairperson (Central and Northern regions) Wanangwa Mbereka confirmed that some parents have expressed reservations on the decision to allow the President’s visit, but said the PTA had no position on the matter.
However, he said that with guidelines that the school intends to put in place during the event, a good number of parents were beginning to accept that the event can proceed.
Said Mbereka: “As PTA, there is no position on the matter. Others are saying the event has to be postponed to next year and others are saying we can proceed to have the event with strict adherence to the set guidelines and minimising the number of attendees.”
Kamuzu Academy headeacher Andrew Hubbard said Founders Day has been an annual feature of the school calendar for almost 40 years and therefore this year we decided to hold the event as usual but with strict Covid-19 safety measures enforced.
“We are very honoured to be able to welcome the President to Founders Day on Saturday. We understand the the President may well bring a number of other visitors with him, however, we put the safety of the students above all other considerations and we are sure that the President and his entourage will also be keen to abide by the Covid-19 prevention measures which we have put in place.”
Every year, Kamuzu Academy hosts the Founder’s Day commemoration in honour of the country’s founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda who established the grammar school, dubbed the Eton of Africa in some quarters, in November 1981. Kamuzu modelled Kamuzu Academy on the best public and grammar schools in the United Kingdom to prepare learners for higher education.
In 2012, former president Joyce Banda also attended the Kamuzu Academy Founder’s Day.