Even though staggering re-opening of schools has been hailed as a commendable move towards controlling of COVID- 19 spread, it is overshadowed by lack of preparedness among schools.
Teachers through Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), have expressed unhappiness at the level of readiness for schools to continue teaching for the second term. BTU vice president( Primary), Bakang Bagwasi says they believe in the staggering process, but wish the whole re-opening could be suspended pending procurement of necessities.
Schools were opened for senior classes at primary and secondary levels recently. Lower classes will resume a week later while pre-primary and pupils with special needs will then follow in a fortnight.
“As much as we commend the staggering concept, the Ministry is treating it as just a normal exercise of opening schools. We have regressed so much in abiding to COVID - 19 protocols in schools.
We have a lot of schools without water supply, no toilets, no soap, no sanitisers and even shortage of PPE’s. We should have not allowed for opening of schools before rectifying the situation,” he said. Bagwasi also said they have been told that there are delays by Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to procure the essentials for primary schools while secondary schools lament that they have tight budgets making it difficult for them to purchase necessities for COVID- 19. He pointed out that they hope that with completion of a nationwide schools’ inspection, the Ministry will take the report seriously and act swiftly on it. He
“Even in such situations, we still have school managers who do not follow laid down procedures, it was agreed that students should not spend the whole day at school, but just under six hours, but some of them keep students all day. We also have those who do not allow teachers to stay at their homes when they do not have lessons.
The Ministry should intervene in such and take action where possible,” he said. Bagwasi observed that with numbers of teachers who succumbed to COVID-19 related conditions increasing, they intend to vigorously engage stakeholders including Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union and Ministries involved to resolve the situation.
At least 26 teachers lost lives due to COVID-19 while hundreds of others and students also tested positive for the virus. Contacted for comment, Basic Education Minister Fidelis Molao said, “Schools opened on Tuesday and we have decided on staggering the opening to ease the numbers in schools, today is the second day.
Inspections are meant to assess the preparedness of schools to receive learners and it is an ongoing process to identify those gaps and close them as a going concern”.
Molao said the approach is to always have schools ready and working together as partners to make schools safe for learners and staff.