GENERAL Education Minister David Mabumba says government will only make an assessment on when pupils in non-examination classes could return to school after analysing the situation when exam classes resume this June.

And Mabumba says he will travel to Muchinga Province to assess the impact of COVID-19, after which he will advise President Edgar Lungu on how to proceed with reopening schools in that area.

Meanwhile, Mabumba says some teachers shall be trained as COVID-19 first responders, in case some pupils and fellow staff show symptoms.

At a media briefing, Thursday, Mabumba unveiled the 2020 examinations calendar for pupils in grades seven, nine and 12 and explained how the process of reopening schools would be done beginning June 1.

“The second term will begin on the 1st June and it ends on 28th of August. After that, we shall have a two weeks break in which we shall conduct Grade nine (external) and the GCE exams which will run from 31st August to 15th September, 2020. If our assumption goes very well and the exams run as I have stated, the third term is expected to commence on 14th September, 2020 until 4th December, 2020. We shall have a break and from 7th December to 30th December. Grade seven, Grade nine (internal) and Grade 12 exams will be conducted during that period, not simultaneously but during that particular period that’s when we shall these exams. The Grade nine internal exams will run from 7th December to 15 December, 2020. Grade seven exams will run from 21st December to 24th December, 2020. Grade 12 exams will run from 14th to 30th December, 2020,” Mabumba said.

“For the non-exam classes, again colleagues if you listened to what the President said, he gave us instructions; the Minister of Higher Education and the Minister of General Education to go and consult. So what we will be doing when we open schools on the 1st of June is to begin consultations and that will give us an opportunity to assess how the exam classes will have opened and how we will have responded because we cannot open for non-exam classes without first of all testing the waters and the waters we will testing is how safe is opening exam classes beginning 1st of June? This is why myself and my team from today we are going to the Provinces to go and support the local leadership in terms of a smooth reopening of school.”

And Mabumba said he would travel to Muchinga Province to assess whether or not schools could reopen.

“Reopening of schools is conditional and dependent on the evolution of the pandemic. As you are aware, Nakonde has become an epicentre. So just after this media briefing, I am traveling to Muchinga Province along with a team from Ministry of Health to go and assess the situation and then we will advise the President before the 1st of June on what needs to be done. So you will be able to hear from myself once I am on the ground because I don’t want to give the President information which is contrary, so I want to go and make an assessment and at the most appropriate time, the Zambian people are going to be informed of what decision we will be making for Nakonde and not only for Nakonde, maybe probably Muchinga as a Province,” Mabumba said.

Meanwhile, Mabumba said some teachers in all schools would be trained as first responders.

“If a COVID-19 case breaks out in a school, we will deal with it in the same manner we are dealing with the cases in the community. There are those toll free lines, so our first responders in the schools will have to call those numbers and then they will be advised in terms of what is it that is necessary to be done. So there will be teams that will be dedicated purposely to deal with reported or suspected cases within schools and they will be dealt with within the COVID-19 protocols that the Ministry of Health has outlined. Then we have also agreed with Ministry of Health that some of our teachers will trained because without training, it would be very difficult for them to become first responders, so we are going to train them so that they are first responders and they are able to detect because early detection in our schools will be very paramount,” Mabumba said.

Mabumba further encouraged pupils who had no access to e-lessons not to despair, as teachers would resume teaching from where they ended last term and exams would strictly be on what had been taught in class.

Mabumba also disclosed that his ministry had secured some money from donors to help schools in COVID-19 preparedness as they reopenned.

“We have also engaged our external partners to ensure that they provide technical and financial support and we are proud that one of them which is our global partner for education will be providing a grant of USD $10 million to the Ministry of General Education as part of the COVID-19 response plan. So you could see how we are working. We have also had discussions with Trade Kings to package products for institutions in bulk so that the requirements of the ministry are responded to,” said Mabumba.

“Then DMMU is working very hard to ensure that the face masks are made available. Today probably everything being equal, Mr Chanda Kabwe from DMMU will be visiting Mulungushi Textiles in Kabwe because that assignment to produce the face masks has been given to the Ministry of Defense. So it is my considered view that our Armed force will cease this opportunity and demonstrate to the Zambian people that they will be able to provide us the 1.3 million face masks that we require. Our budget is that we should give two face masks per child at the beginning.”