GOVERNMENT must consider deploying at least one police officer at schools that are vulnerable to gas attacks, says the Zambia Union of Teachers (ZNUT).

Last week, police spokesperson Esther Katongo disclosed that 68 pupils of Lusaka’s Hillview Park School were hospitalized after their classrooms were sprayed with unknown poisonous chemical substances.

In an interview, ZNUT general secretary Newman Bubala appealed to government to deploy at least one police officer at schools that remained vulnerable to gas attacks, adding that if the chemical spraying persisted, schools should be closed.

“There is need to create a mechanism of seriously protecting the schools as well as engaging parents and administrators of the school system at district-level. They can advise the assurance of security in schools. If security is not assured, it will be very difficult to teach children in an environment where a slight thing will cause commotion of fear. When children begin to hear that this school has been gassed, sometimes, it may not even be true but it becomes dangerous when fear grips in. We want to appeal to the police to assure us that they have provided enough security and that the schools are secure from these gassing activities. It may not be perfectly secure because you may never know who does these things, but as long as they have put security measures within every school so that even when a child is in school, they feel they are safe,” Bubala said.

“This thing has never happened before and now we are hearing that parents are scared to take their children to school because they don’t know what will happen. Police officers should be deployed at schools. If possible, there should be an assigned officer, who should be responsible within that area of the school. Even communities working together they can hire serious security guards, who can be vigilant enough to make sure that any suspicious people can be quickly reported. We need people who are highly-trained and can know how to deal with security issues. If it goes out of control, then there would be no option, but to suggest that they should review whether continuity of learning will help.”

And Bubala predicted that learning activities would negatively be affected if children were scared to attend schools.

“You may find that certain places there is no learning for some time, learning levels will be different and by the time the year ends, others would have completed the syllabus and others struggling. We really need to monitor how best we can help those who are scared to go to school because of the gassing. It is more of putting stakeholders together and finding plans how children can learn under what is prevailing,” said Bubala.