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Of school reopening during lock down and State of Emergency

MMAOTHO SEGOTSO
“Some of us, will lose our jobs, education, dreams and our minds. We will lose our companies, economy, our morals and normal life, because of Corona.

Even if we are losing a lot to Corona. One thing I know…We might lose some battles, but we will win the war. Things will be right again. Whatever we have lost, we shall regain. We will overcome. Just don’t lose hope and the spirit to fight.” - De philosopher DJ Kyos

The world woke up one day and found itself gripped by an incessive, scathy, calamitous, force, the novel corona virus. The virus was literally incinerating the world! Humanity stood in shock as for the first time, science too appeared failing. The virus spread like veld fire with people dying like flies. Nations had to make crematoriums as burying people, even in mass-graves, BECAME a luxury.

The sick, were isolated, and sometimes would die alone as family members too might be in isolation. A new world order started as Covid-19 perched itself at the apex of the food chain.

There was no containing the virus, safe for one way, LOCK DOWN. Scientists reasoned, it is people who carry the virus and if people stop moving, so too shall the virus.

Lock down came with other regulations or practices like regular washing of hands and keeping at least a one-meter distance from each other. Hugs, kisses, handshakes, cuddles, eating and sitting together became anathematic. People had to learn how to make do without each other. The world came to stand a still as anomalies became the new normal. Normal operations that humanity had depended on shut down. Nobody escaped unscathed as places where people converged to learn, socialize and or worship were shut down. The education sector too was affected as schools closed, albeit temporarily.

Botswana came under a 28-day lock down during the course of which the President called parliament and requested to be given to invoke the constitution and put the nation under a State of Public Emergency, solely to fight COVID-19.

Part V of the SOE regulations read:

20. (1) All schools shall be closed during the state of public emergency.

(2) For purpose of this regulation, “school” means a pre-primary school, primary school, driving school, tertiary school, including university.

Day 33 of the SOE the President called Parliament for a meeting to agree on amending the first regulations…same day the director of health services issued a press release to the effect that schools shall open under the regulations below:

Schools

l Can open from 8 May

l Provided it has satisfied the Director of Health l or anyone designated by him

l Satisfies them in terms of the ability to prevent the spread of COVID-19

l Should check temperature of everyone accessing the school

l Anyone with a temperature at 37.4 degrees shall not be allowed in

l Regular disinfection of schools

l Director of Health may direct that schools be opened in a phased manner 

The situation in public schools

l Acute shortage of teaching space: schools that were initially meant to be 12 streams infrastructure-wise now operate as 18 streams

l Families of over five people each share two bedroomed houses

l Classes stand at a simmering 60 in some areas, especially at the back of beyond

l To date, there a villages which still go for days without water

l 99% of our schools do not have sick bays where sick learners can be kept

l Teachers are not medical personnel and will thus not be able to handle sick learners

Challenges

l How to open schools for all learners and still ensure there is no risk of infection

l Large

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class size: how to divide and accommodate the learners

l How to ensure there is a health practitioner stationed at each school to monitor and assist the sick

l The logic behind using temperature as a criterion to decide to enters the school: it has been said elsewhere that one can spread the virus even if they don’t show any symptoms

l The intricate complexities of teaching and learning pedagogy wise. Does it mean teachers are now going to be using the lecture method only? If so, what about learners with disabilities and or different learning styles. What about slow learners? Because in lecturing you fly with the fliers!

l Acute shortage of books. Teachers have been using group work to ensure 5 to 7 seven learners share a text book

l Practical subject that require observation

l Practical subject like Physical Education where there is no way around contact

l Wearing of face masks versus teaching and learning. I am again thinking of physical education where a teacher uses a whistle most of the time

l Given that some families travelled, how to ensure they:

lDo not infect each other in cases of shared accommodation

l Maintain social distancing where ten or more people share a two-bedroomed house.

Possible solutions

Double shift: This one is going to need teachers’ buy in. Here classes will be divided into small groups to ensure there is distancing: Like in Norway where schools are encouraged to divide classes into groups of no more than 15 students. Also, students are expected to come to school alternately. This will in our case, deal with issues of large class size plus acute shortage of both teaching space and teaching materials, especially books.

Creating space: In Denmark for instance, schools are to place desks six feet apart and student arrivals are staggered, among other measures, in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines still in place.

Hygienic measures: Ensuring that there is water to ensure washing of hands. In Europe measures being adopted across include strict handwashing and disinfection regimes, physical distancing and the demarcation of playgrounds into zones to ensure pupils do not mix more than necessary. In Japan another measure is to have plastic desktops. In SA, Gauteng province, each classroom will be required to have a sanitizer and there would be at least four basins for the washing of hands. Still in Gauteng, each pupil is to receive a mask and gloves at the school gate. Here at home, water will have to be brought to schools in villages where people drink tad-poles.

Phased re-opening: Majority of countries the world over, have decided to for 2020, open schools to completing students only: standard 7s, Forms threes and fives and final year college and university students. This it has been argued across the globe, will ensure there is no congestion in schools.

This is a defining moment for government, which for over 50 years has flatly refused to improve the situation in schools. Which has refused to pay heed to the student teacher ratio situation in class. Now with socials distancing even the trees under which learners have been taught, will not suffice. It is time for true, wise and committed leadership to manifest, for,

“These are not ordinary times where we play politics and juggle with the safety of the society. These are the times that demand prompt decisions and utter responsibility towards not just the self but our kind – the humankind.” Abijit Naskar



Educationally Speaking

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