Schools will finally reopen next week after a 10-month closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the question is: Are they sufficiently prepared to handle all the learners in line with the health and safety protocols?
With just a week to go, it’s critical to ensure that all the preparations have been made, which include expanding infrastructure to create additional space that can guarantee social distancing and provision of adequate and reliable water, soap and sanitisers to maintain high levels of cleanliness.
For the past few months, the government has been working on procuring and supplying chairs and desks to schools as well as other physical facilities. But not every school has received them.
Government’s plan to provide face masks is ambivalent. At one point it pledged to give every learner face masks when schools resume, but lately, it is skirting around that, insisting that only those from disadvantaged backgrounds will benefit.
It’s doubtable if all schools will get the supplies on time. Yet most of them are crowded following the government’s policy of 100 per cent access and transition, itself a noble initiative geared towards achieving universal education.
Importantly, the government should disburse capitation grants to schools early enough to enable them finalise all the preparations.
Several times in the past, funding has been delayed, occasioning distress to schools. It’s worse if this was to happen at this time of crisis and when the government has been preaching that it was making efforts to cushion the institutions against the pandemic.
Besides, teachers and learners will require counselling to settle down after the traumatic experiences during the year. Many learners and teachers lost relatives and loved ones.
Parents lost jobs and incomes precipitating socio-economic and psychological hardships within households. A number of school girls got pregnant while many youngsters became casual labourers.
All these justify why arrangements should be made early to ensure smooth reopening of schools.