FORMER commerce minister Robert Sichinga says if government was prudently utilising COVID-19 donations, schools would have reopened for all pupils.

In an interview, Sichinga 2020 would be a lost year.

“How long will this go on for where you close schools? It means that this year is lost. So, what happens to the year itself? You’ve opened schools for examination classes to continue learning, but where will they go after taking the exams? It’s self-defeating. The President himself has said we have to accept the new normal, so where is the new normal when children are still at home and not in school? We just have to open the schools, subject to precautions, in the same way the factories must be opened. I am aware that there is an increase in the infection rate, and that’s because people have relaxed: they are not wearing masks, they are not washing their hands, and also the PF government is not spending money in the areas educating the people. Instead, they are using the money from the COVID-19 donations with their cadres,” Sichinga said.

“PF is not using the money donated for fighting COVID for its intended purpose; instead, they are sharing the money with their cadres. We have heard audio clips in which people were talking about transacting with the Ministry of Health to redistribute material donated to the Ministry among their cadres, everybody knows that. So, the people in PF are eating, while everybody else is left to die without educating. Also there are supposed to be lessons learnt about the COVID-19 pandemic and that those are supposed to be implemented in terms of helping the hospitals. But because they have used the money and distributed it to their cadres, the money is no longer available to buy drugs in hospitals either.”

He also wondered what would happen next to pupils in examination classes if schools remained closed for other grades.

“What will happen? How long will this go on? It means that 2020 is a lost year for everybody, not just pupils in non-examination classes, but everybody. That is why I am saying they need to open up the schools with preparations that are necessary. If people are able to travel with minibuses, is that not much more dangerous than children going back to school? People are still getting on minibuses, just look in the streets and you will see for yourself. So, buses are able to do that, what will be so difficult about opening schools? This year is already gone and if government spent the money in the right places, like securing the materials that these schools need, you could minimize or eliminate altogether the possibility of infection because many people have learnt that they need to observe the measures that have been put. But they don’t have the masks. The schools must be opened; you cannot go on like this. In September, we must open the schools and the factories with the precautions that should be taken in all these places,” said Sichinga.

“But this government is in fact its own enemy because all they are interested in is to steal; they steal everything from the COVID contributions! This is all meant to create poverty for the people so that the people can be dependent on their bribes and their chitenge. But how will that help the people now? People need to feed their families and they need to work. So, the factories must be opened, schools must be opened.”