Schools remain open despite Covid-19 affecting learners and teachers in 11 of the country’s 34 education districts, with Lilongwe Girls Secondary School alone registering 137 positive cases yesterday.
Addressing the press in Lilongwe last evening, Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje—who was accompanied by Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chair John Phuka and Minister of Information Gospel Kazako—painted a picture of how the pandemic has affected the country’s schools and colleges, saying both teachers and learners have been affected to varying degrees across 11 education districts.
The briefing was preceded by a meeting by the task force to, according to Kazako, thrash out a way forward in tackling the pandemic whose cases have been rising sharply since the beginning of this month.
Presenting a breakdown of Covid-19 impact on the education sector, NyaLonje confirmed that after massive testing at Lilongwe Girls where earlier some 16 students had tested positive, an additional 121 students also tested positive, bringing the total to 137.
She said Ministry of Health yesterday tested 196 students at the school and that the testing was on-going.
Said the minister: “The country has 34 education districts and 11 of those have reported Covid-19 cases. Both teachers and learners have been affected by Covid-19.”
She said out of the country’s 27 tertiary institution with a population, of 60 000 students, 18 students and seven lecturers have tested positive with three deaths recorded.
Out of the 11 education districts, 14 primary school teachers, 15 secondary school teachers and eight learners (four from public schools and four from private schools) have tested Covid-19 positive.
In addition,19 staff in teacher training colleges, eight student teachers, one primary education adviser also tested positive. One student teacher has since died.
However, the government officials yesterday could not say whether schools, particularly Lilongwe Girls Secondary School will be closed. They also declined to take questions from the press during the briefing.
Earlier yesterday, health officials were rushed to Lilongwe Girls Secondary School to conduct mass Covid-19 tests after students held overnight protests to force authorities to release them following positive Covid-19 cases registered among the students.
The 16 positive cases were announced on Wednesday and students were irate over the decision to keep those who tested positive on campus and also keep the school open, according to some students.
Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala in an interview yesterday the tests were done to determine the exact number of students affected.
He said: “We have been engaging the students and District Health Office officials have also been on site to ensure that the students understand that they are safe.”
His Ministry of Health counterpart Joshua Malango said the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 would make the final decision, but confirmed the ministry was working with other ministries to ensure the best solution was reached.
During the briefing, Phuka described the figures emerging from the education sector as “a sad new dynamic” in the fight against the pandemic.
He said yesterday alone, the country recorded 503 new cases and 10 deaths, bringing the number of total confirmed cases to 10 494.
However, though the cumulative figure on confirmed cases increased, there was a glimmer of hope as 39 new recoveries were registered yesterday, bringing the cumulative total to 5 903.