GENERAL Education Minister David Mabumba says only 11 suspected cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in schools so far.

And Mabumba says it is logistically impossible to test all the 1.1 million pupils who are currently attending examination classes.

Speaking during a live COVID-19 information dissemination programme which was hosted by Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya on ZNBC TV1, Tuesday, Mabumba said the 11 suspected cases had been reported to the Ministry of Health.

“From the time we opened the schools on 1st June, it’s just to thank the President for the leadership. You know, many of the countries haven’t been able to make this decision given that there is so much fear around COVID-19. Since the reopening of the schools, we have more than one million children who have gone into our school system. And from June, the number of cases in the context of COVID that have been reported are very minimal, around 11. These are the cases that have been reported. And as part of our protocol of managing the risk of COVID in our schools, once there are identified cases, we report them to the Ministry of Health. And this far, all the cases have been reported to the Ministry of Health,” Mabumba said.

“So, when you look at the number against 1.1 million children who have gone back to our school system, I leave it to the Zambian people to make a judgement whether our reopening has been successful or not. For us as government, 1.1 million children against 11 cases reported and all of them have been handled. And those schools where these cases have been reported have gone back to normal. As far as we are concerned, there is no Coronavirus in the schools. Coronavirus can only come from the communities into the school system because the children are living in the communities. So the notion that there is COVID in our schools is a wrong notion because our schools as far as we are concerned, we have been able to ensure that all the COVID-19 school guidelines that we have developed, they are implemented strictly.”

Mabumba said Zambia had not declared 2020 as a dead academic year as other countries had done hence the need for examination classes to continue.

“Some countries have declared 2020 as a dead academic year. We in Zambia have not been able to reach that far in terms of declaring 2020 as a dead academic year as demonstrated by the examination classes that have already reported. What the President and Cabinet are doing is to give ourselves an opportunity to monitor how the COVID transmission, given that the curve is going up, how the transmission is going to be in the next few weeks or one month. And on that basis, Cabinet through the President is going to make a decision based on data that is based on facts, and that is based on science so that we are able to protect the other 3.7 million children who have remained out of the school system,” Mabumba said.

And asked why the 1.1 million pupils in examination classes had not been tested for the virus, Mabumba said it is logistically impossible.

“Minister, that is the argument from the Zambian people but you and I, for example, is it logistically possible that you can go and test everybody? When I have got COVID-19 in my body, I am going to have the symptoms obviously. I cannot live with it for two or three weeks, I should have the symptoms. And this is why we are saying that as much as the parents might want us to test everybody, I think our strategy at the moment, given the logistics, we shall do testing exceptionally. But from those schools where those 11 cases have been reported, all the children and teachers have been tested,” he said.

And Mabumba said all schools must ensure that they have hand washing soap and sanitizers for their learners.

“There are standards that should be followed. We have developed the COVID-19 guidelines which provide the measures that must be followed and one of them is masking up. Every school as hand washing facilities, every school is supposed to have soap and hand-sanitizer. So, if there is a school of that particular nature, I wish you could have given us the name so that we send our standard officers to go and check the compliance levels,” said Mabumba.