GOVERNMENT should temporarily close schools where lives of learners and teachers are danger due to inadequate security currently prevailing at various institutions, says National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) executive director Aaron Chansa.

Last week, General Education Minister David Mabumba announced that government did not intend to close any school on account of gassing, arguing that sufficient measures had already been put in place to address heightened security concerns.

But reacting to Mabumba’s announcement, Chansa insisted that proper learning could never take place in an environment where learners and teachers remained fearful.

“We are still insisting that, as things stand, the situation is not conducive for learning and teaching, especially that there is no assurance from the police about the security of our learners in schools and then in most of our schools, the security is not adequate. You would find that most of the schools have no security guards, which means that our learners and teachers are extremely vulnerable! So, what we are saying is that, in the absence of these security measures and in the absence of guaranteed security of our learners and teachers, the only option that remains is to temporarily close our schools as the police are working on curtailing these criminal activities. Only when the police have put in enough security measures to prevent these criminal activities can we start talking about effective teaching and learning in our schools. For now, we still see the situation to be dire, not conducive for teaching and learning and extremely dangerous for our learners,” Chansa said in an interview.

He wondered how Mabumba could rely on cadet soldiers in schools and untrained guards as enough security to protect children in schools.

“Cadets can’t be relied on to provide security to their friends, they are just ordinary pupils! We cannot give the responsibility to provide security to these young ones. Then even those schools having security, they are not adequately armed. No wonder we are seeing schools being gassed! If we had enough security in these schools, we could not have seen Arthur Wina School being gassed. We had other cases in Chisamba and Chibombo Secondary School, there is Lufwanyama and also Mayeba, and we have also heard stories of Evelyn Hone College being gassed and so many other schools targeted. So, we don’t agree with the Minister that having cadets in schools is security enough. What we need are the police to begin to man schools and to begin to patrol areas and also to tell the country where these people are getting this chemical, the name of the chemical and its nature so that even the learners could begin to be protective against these chemicals. In the absence of full details about this chemical, it is extremely difficult for teachers and learners to get ready or to be prepared against the gassing,” Chansa argued.

He also insisted that security of pupils needed to be paramount in every learning institution.

“We know that closing schools has got its own consequences because it will disrupt the academic calendar. But again, we are mindful of the fact that lives of learners are extremely precious and our view is that we need to protect the children. So, we cannot expose them to gassing because apart from the lives being in danger now, we might also expose their health to future ailments. So, if the Ministry is insisting that schools cannot close, then let the Ministry provide adequate security measures so that we can stop having these criminals targeting schools and innocent learners for that matter. Otherwise, we are extremely concerned and worried because we don’t think that learning can take place when learners and teachers are afraid,” said Chansa.