CHIEF government spokesperson Dora Siliya has announced that schools will reopen on Monday February 1, 2021. She said among the consequences of keeping schools closed is that some girls fell pregnant after schools were closed for six months. On the other hand, the Minister was not coming out categorically on the serious measures taken to stop super spreader events from being carried out.

“In arriving at this decision, the Council of Ministers took into consideration several factors, including the fact that the current wave of Covid-19 is much more aggressive in spread and it is more deadly. The Council, however, also considered the consequences of keeping the schools closed. The Council recalled that after closing schools, during the first wave of Covid-19, there were a number of social consequences on the children. The Council observed that several girls fell pregnant and could not return to school when schools were reopened six months later. The Council took note of reports of social evils like incest and defilement cases that had increased in number due to the prolonged closure of schools. The Council consequently resolved to reopen schools on the basis that there will be strict monitoring of adherence to Covid-19 preventive measures,” said Honourable Siliya.

“The Council of Ministers noted that the increase in cases of COVID-19 was being exacerbated by bars, taverns, funerals, weddings and other marriage related events such as kitchen parties and Ichilanga Mulilo ceremonies. Other super spreaders noted by the Council included church gatherings and traditional ceremonies. The Council observed that there was inadequate compliance to the Covid-19 preventive measures during super spreader events. The Council consequently called for strict compliance to the Covid-19 health guidelines and directed all relevant institutions to ensure compliance to existing Presidential directives and health guidelines. On bars, the Council reiterated the President’s directive to the effect that bars may only be opened on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and only from 18:00 hours to 23:00 hours on each of the three days.”

We are concerned that while the government has shown determination to go ahead with the reopening of schools, they have no capacity to handle the consequences of this decision. We understand that school could not be kept closed forever, but what is the plan for the pupils that we are sending out there into gatherings? If our government was strategic, during the school shut down, they would have been setting up designated facilities to take care of more Covid-19 patients who will be coming in from learning institutions.

How does it make sense that you send home mature, adult civil servants to avoid congesting public offices only to assemble seven to 14 year old children in crowded schools. For a decision like this to be made, there has to be a contingency plan from our leaders, but we are not seeing that. The problem is that these people who are making decisions for our poor children don’t have children in these schools. Their children learn abroad and they never even experienced a disruption in the school calendar because their parents can afford tuition.

It is very disappointing that our politicians have chosen to ignore expert advice and recommendations from technocrats that schools opening be deferred for a further one month to allow for preparedness. Schools which are congregations in nature can easily become super spreaders as most of the children will be actually coming from Covid-infected homes. These children are also likely to carry the virus from school to their houses. Let’s face it, children are children, no one can keep an eye on children every minute. They will remove their masks to eat and some will even exchange masks as they play. Where will we treat the children who will get infected?

We have also observed that on super spreader gatherings like church, funerals, weddings and other social events, there is no clear cut directive to stop those. The PF Government seems more concerned about the political side of things and are speaking in tongues in terms of enforcement measures. They don’t mind holding campaign rallies even when they can see that the hospitals cannot even take one more patient because they are fully packed.

They ban a traditional ceremony which is a one day event but in the same area where they have banned a traditional event, they go and hold massive rallies. Surely, this country does not only have a Covid pandemic, we also have a serious leadership crisis pandemic.