A plan to reopen schools in Swaziland (eSwatini) after the coronavirus lockdown is in jeopardy as government and the teachers’ union cannot agree on the best way forward.
The Swazi Ministry of Education and Training wants to start a phased reopening of schools starting 1 July 2020.
In a statement Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini said, ‘The closure of schools effected on 17 March 2020 was an effort at national level to contain the rapid spread of the virus. However, evidence shows that the prolonged closure of schools and tertiary institutions will have significant negative socio-economic effects and it cannot continue endlessly.
‘For the objectives of the 2020 academic year to be achieved, we need to allow the current Form 5 learners to progress to tertiary level. To do so they need to sit for their examinations and complete their end of school cycle.
‘In preparation for the reopening of schools and tertiary institutions, personnel will be trained on COVID-19 prevention and control, and on ways of adapting to the “new normal” while ensuring that teaching and learning continues. Government has developed a checklist for assessing school’s readiness.’
However, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) believes it has not been fully consulted about the move. Last month SNAT drew up a list of issues it wanted addressed before schools could safely reopen. They included schools to be disinfected, all children tested for coronavirus, a nurse on site at every school and the transportation of learners to conform with social distance requirements. The marking of class work and sharing of books should be also be discontinued, SNAT said.
The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has also said it wants each child to have four facemasks and 480,000 will be needed.
There is also a worry from headteachers that schools do not have funds to carry out the work necessary to make schools safe from the COVID-19. The government has not announced additional funding to pay for this.
The Ministry of Education and Training and SNAT are continuing discussions.
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