On 15 August 2020, the Malawi Head of State,  President Lazarus Chakwera announced that government plans to reopen schools early September. According to his remarks, only schools which meet the government’s safety standards on coronavirus prevention will be allowed to reopen.

There have been mixed reactions from the general public following government’s decision to open schools.

Most of these, sympathizing with the lives of innocent souls like those of Bless Mbalazada and Uwemi Mbalazada.

 

Bless and Uwemi at their home in Nthalire-Chitipa district

Agnes Bilima is a teacher at St Ignatius Primary school in Nthalire, Chitipa district and also a mother of two primary level scholars. According to Bilima her most fear is that her two boys may get infected in school especially when schools are not well equipped to keep learners safe from the pandemic.

Bilima at work

“As a parent i need to be assured of the safety of my children first before I send them to school. Yes, education is important but it can not be at the expense of the precious lives of my babies. Before announcing the dates, the government should have put enough and convincing rules and regulations specifically for schools. for example a teacher-learner ratio of 1-10, a compulsory physical distance, provision of masks, soap and water to both teachers and learners. For example, my son goes to the same school that I am teaching but I have not seen or heard any of these measures being implemented apart from interventions from one NGO. As a parent, I know I have a role to play, so is the government and we can only win if we all do our job right,” narrated Bilima.

“As teachers we are happy that NGOs are helping. For example MESP has donated pails, 4 cartons of bar soaps and cloths to mother groups so that they can be making masks for the learners but still, these are consumables and it is only the government that can facilitate long term measures,” requested Bilima as she finished.

Meanwhile, the government conducted an assessment on availability of portable water in schools across the country.  According to the report, Out of 5704 schools in the country, 1260 can not access portable water within 200 metres and 434 do not have portable water; therefore implying that about 2 000 000 learners will not be able to access portable water within 200 metres and 800 000 learners do not and will not have access to water when schools open and when water will not be made available to them come September 7.

Click the link below for a full report.

http://wesnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Schools-without-portable-water-within-200-metres-radius-by-District-2020-updated-2-1.xlsx

As of 31 August 2020, Malawi has registered a total of 5536 cases out of 44511 tests conducted.