GENERAL Education Minister David Mabumba says no school will be closed on account of gassing because government has already put in place measures to address the situation.

In a statement, Tuesday, the National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) advised the Ministry of General Education to close schools in Lusaka and other gassing-prone areas where lives of learners in schools could not be assured by the security wings.

“NAQEZ is deeply troubled by the recent gassing of innocent pupils recorded on the Copperbelt, North-Western and Lusaka provinces. These acts of terror have sent waves of fear among learners and teachers across the country; learning and teaching cannot take place when safety is remotely guaranteed. Our schools require extra security to create a conducive teaching/learning atmosphere. The gassing of learners at Arthur Wina and Northmead schools have made the issue more worrying as the trend is emerging that schools are now the prime targets for gassing. Our check at Arthur Wina shows that the school has no security detail in place. We plead with all schools in the country to ensure security of learners is offered prominence,” stated NAQEZ executive director Aaron Chansa, Tuesday.

“NAQEZ further appeals to the police to begin manning schools, and inform the nation about the name and nature of the chemical being used by these dangerous criminals, including the source of the substance. This will greatly help members of the public in being more protective against the dangers of the chemical.”

But in an interview with News Diggers, Mabumba insisted that government would only tighten security systems in these institutions and not close them.

“There is no decision that has been taken to that effect. For now, our focus is to ensure that we strengthen security measures around our schools, in some locations the army are deployed. So, this is something that requires all of us to fight together, but closing schools is not a matter that we are considering for now. Most of the schools have got support staff and largely in terms of support staff others have got watchmen; these watchmen should try to man the gates and ensure that they scrutinize each and every individual, who is going into the school system and then, obviously, we also need to strengthen the cadet systems into our schools,” Mabumba said.

“Those are some of the security measures that we will need to strengthen. Our job is to make sure that the watchmen are alert and, then, they just generally need to be on the look-out. So, our role, for now, is just to ensure that we speak to the teachers. Then, our Provincial Ministers are meeting with the teachers tomorrow (Wednesday) to have a conversation with them and I will also be going into the zones just to meet with our school managers to discuss issues of strengthening security in our schools; speak to the pupils and tell them that government is taking necessary measures to protect them and promote their well-being. So, for now, those are the things I can focus myself on. But for the issue of closing the schools, for now, I don’t think we are there. So, we just want to encourage everybody to be alert and our security systems to be enhanced in our schools. That is what we will focus on for now and we are speaking to our school managers to ensure that they are alert and they begin to put all these security measures that I am talking to in place.”

Mabumba encouraged learners and the parents to have confidence that their government had things under control.

“I know when you have got uncertainty, obviously, people begin to panic. But it’s just to assure them that the leadership through President Lungu is providing leadership and we are trying to ensure that we promote the wellbeing of parents, children and our teachers. That is very paramount to us and this is why you’ve seen that soldiers have been deployed because the President saw that they needed to. So, for us, from the security measure point of view, we will continue to strengthen these security measures in our systems and the top leadership also will be taking measures that are necessary,” he said.

And Mabumba challenged the media to use their power to sensitize members of the public about gassing and strongly condemn the trend in their various media outlets.

“So, for you, our colleagues in the media, we just want to encourage you to sensitize our parents, our pupils because this is not a one-man’s job. We need to work together as a country, we need unity of purpose. This nonsense that is being done by people we don’t know is not necessary. How can you go and gas innocent children? What do you benefit? So, if you colleagues from the media are not robust enough to call a ‘spade a spade,’ then it will be very unfortunate. So, I want also to challenge you, as News Diggers!, to communicate as much as possible because if you’re not communicating and especially condemning…I would want to see your editorial comment condemning people, who are doing this and this applies to each and every media house in this country, that we need to condemn! The Church has to condemn, the media has to condemn and the Zambian people have to condemn because we can’t be losing lives of children like that. What has an innocent child done? They are just looking for education. So, if all of us can speak with one voice, wherever they are, these gassers will not continue because they will know that the country is united. For me, unity of purpose is the most important thing to fight this vice,” appealed Mabumba.