A number of pupils at Borolong Primary School, 20km west of Francistown, were last week barred from lessons for coming to school wearing dirty masks, The Monitor has learnt.
The school’s authorities forced the children to wash their masks and wait for them to dry in the winter sun before being admitted into classrooms.
Parents who spoke to The Monitor said the drama unfolded on Thursday morning when the school’s Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) officer picked out students with dirty masks during the entry processes conducted upon arrival at school.
This publication has established that prior to this incident the school’s management tried in a number of occasions to reach out to parents, plead with them to take care of their children, but their efforts fell on deaf ears.
Furthermore, reacting to the situation the school management allegedly resolved to make pupils wash their masks and wait for them to dry before they accessed classes.
The incident sparked outrage on social media with pictures of the children drying their masks in the winter sun, being circulated. A Facebook post by a Village Development Committee (VDC) member, Julia Ditshane with pictures of children drying their masks on the sun sparked parents’ mixed feelings over the school’s approach.
Ditshane’s Facebook post reads, “Bagolo a re tlhatswetseng bana di face mask, gago monate ba bangwe bale mo classing ngwana wa ga go ale ko ntle.”
Some parents supported the school’s move urging others to take even greater care of their children in the coronavirus (COVID-19) era. They commended the school management’s move stating that every parent should make sure their children are taken care of and not put all the burden of responsibility on the teachers.
However, some parents dismissed the move, describing it as ‘cruelty against innocent souls’, especially as children were barred from attending lessons and had to wait in the cold morning weather for their masks to
Another parent, Clara Khachana commented saying, “Ha ngwana atla ka mask o leswe ke eng asa tlogelwe a tsenelela dithuto gobo go lelediwa motsadi atle go lebisiwa molato eseng go baya ngwana ko ntle a fetwa ke dithuto, kana ebile ba saletse morago ka lebaka la COVID-19”.
In an interview, Khachana said it was the parents’ responsibility to look after their children and make sure they were clean before leaving for school. She, however, said the decision to make the pupils wash their masks did not sit well with her.
“The school’s management should consider taking action against parents who are failing to take care of their children instead of punishing innocent souls. This to me looks like a punishment to them, imagine the embarrassment they went through when washing those masks, waiting for them to dry and missing some lessons,” Khachana said.
Basic Education minister, Fidelis Molao, who is also the area’s Member of Parliament, supported the school management’s move. Molao said COVID-19 protocols at schools were non-negotiable.
“I am not aware of that, but the school management should make sure that all pupils are protected, it is their responsibility.
Following COVID-19, school management will from time to time take decisions to protect the learners and the school community looking at the situation they see on the ground,” he said.
Molao further pleaded with parents to take care of their children and make sure they are neat at all times. He said parents should consider themselves as irresponsible if they allow their children to go to school with dirty masks.
The incident comes as Greater Gaborone enters a two-weeklong lockdown caused by an outbreak of COVID-19 cases mostly at schools in the zonal area.