ZAMBIA ADAPTS TO NEW NORMAL: SCHOOLS REOPEN

The cry has been loud. The effects, not pleasing. The deaths, devastating. The tears, heart breaking.

Corona virus has done it all; economies limping, families anguishing in poverty, the world at war, doctors and medical personnel always tired. What seemed to have been a virus that would last for a short time and affect a few countries, now seems to be here to stay for a long time and has affected the entire globe.

Zambia has not been left out.  After recording the first two positive cases of the virus on the March 18, the effects of the virus have been something so devastating. The economy has been hugely affected due to the closure of a lot of sectors in the country, among many other factors.

Being a landlocked country, Zambia has suffered most due to boarders being closed, limiting the number of international trade. One would only imagine how the economy will suffer, should there be any more restrictions.

The good news however, is that countries have slowly been easing some restrictions. Boarders are being opened, certain sectors too and activities are slowly going back to normal.

After the announcement of the closure of all schools, colleges and universities by the Zambian government on the March 17, students have been waiting impatiently to hear news of reopening.

The prayers of the students in the country were answered, a light started to shine when it was announced that some schools would be allowed to open.

I am directing that the first classes to reopen will be primary and secondary school examination classes on 1st June, 2020… ,

Republican President Edgar Lungu said.

The emphasis however, was on observing health guidelines such as mandatory face masks, washing and/or sanitizing of hands and observing social distancing where possible.

Questions arose on whether the call to open schools was made at the right time or not.

Commenting on what this means for the education sector, National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQUEZ) director Aaron Chansa welcomed the move by government.

“While we would have loved government to give the COVID-19 crisis more time before considering the reopening of schools, we still find reopening of schools for examination classes beneficial, if well managed,” he said.

Mr. Chansa however emphasized on the need to ensure that the Ministry of General Education, Ministry of Health and the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) should ensure there are proper preventive measures in place.

We need all learners and teachers to be fully protected from contracting or spreading the virus,

he added.

However, some parents received the news with fear.

One parent, Mildred Nalume, said she still fears for the health of the pupils, especially the ones that are still young and need special guidelines and help.

“I just hope that the ministry and all relevant bodies are well prepared to handle our pupils, especially the grade sevens that are in day school,” she said.

On the other hand, another parent, Mr. Alexander Phiri was very happy. He said life has to continue despite the virus hitting hard.

Mr. Phiri called on the parents to ensure that their children are told all they need to know about the virus, to help them stay safe before they even leave home. He added that charity must begin at home.

When the wait was over and Monday came, the streets were full of pupils.

For Martin Chibwe, a grade 12 pupil at Chilenje South Secondary School, it was almost unbelievable for him to put on his uniform after a long time.

“I am so happy to go back to school. I am sure everyone of my friends is happy too. It feels like the day I made it to grade 10,” he said.

Joy lingered on every pupil’s face as they went back to school. They also seemed excited to be in face masks which is a good sign of them adhering to health guidelines.

One can only wish that the situation will be handled well as this would give way for other primary and secondary pupils in non-examination classes, colleges and universities, who await going back to school.

Fingers crossed for better outcomes as the world tries to adapt to the new normal.

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