Connect with us
Advertisement

School re-opening during COVID-19-the health, educational and logistical dilemma (Part II)

As you are aware, on 27th July, the Greater Gaborone COVID-19 zone was put under lock down after a reported spike in new COVID-19 cases. In essence, we have suffered the much dreaded second spike.

Worth mentioning is the fact that new COVID-19 cases were also identified in some schools in Gaborone and Mogoditshane, with one private school recording an estimated 30% infection rate. In view of this, Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) has called for the closure of schools up to next year, arguing that no effective learning can occur under the circumstances.

BOSETU’s calls notwithstanding, the only commitment that government has made is that pre-schools will not re-open when schools re-open. The question is: is government right not to accede to calls to leave all schools closed when the Greater Gaborone lockdown is lifted, possibly in a week’s time? To answer this question, a detailed background is required.

In May, when government announced its intention to open schools on 2nd June and 16th June for completing classes and all other classes respectively, debate ensued as to whether it would be safe in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, trade unions, especially BOSETU and Botswana Teachers Union(BTU) argued that the shortage of classrooms, laboratories, toilets, washing basins, etc will make the observance of social distancing and hygiene impossible, risking an uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 when schools re-open.

Government, on the other hand, argued that the aforesaid constraints notwithstanding, opening schools is important lest our children lag behind to an extent which will be difficult of remediation in future. Government further argued that schools have been assigned funds to address the infrastructural concerns raised by the trade unions.

At the time, I argued that because government had, for years, failed to build more classrooms, laboratories and toilets, such backlog could not be addressed in the two months that schools were closed during the national lockdown. I also argued that the high teacher-student ratio caused by limited teachers, classrooms and laboratories would also take years to address.

I, however, argued that be that as it may, schools must open at one point or another. To me, the question then was: when would it be appropriate for schools to re-open, and in what manner?
In attempting to answer the question, I considered what other countries had done. At the time, France, which had recorded 70 new cases of COVID-19 in schools, had allowed schools to reopen, with classes capped at 10 students for preschools and 15 students for other age groups.

In the United Kingdom, there were plans to re-open schools from 1st June though trade unions were opposed to the decision. Some local Councils were threatening to defy the national government and not re-open as planned, arguing that opening so early poses a risk of a second COVID-19 spike.

In South Africa, government also intended to re-open schools in June, but trade unions, especially the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), were threatening to advice teachers not to go back to work until it is safe to do so. South Africa’s Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, defended government’s decision to re-open, arguing that it would be unfair for those who do not want to re-open to disadvantage those who want to re-open.

As you may be aware, the South African government later decided to close schools when, as trade unions had warned, the country suffered a second COVID-19 spike.  From the above, it is clear that the trend was to re-open schools in June. The Botswana government was, therefore, not alone in that regard. However, I argued then, as I do now, that this is not a case of the majority; It is a question of life and death where rationale, not numbers, must prevail.

I also wish to add that the determining factor here should be the circumstances of each country, taking into account such factors as the health system’ s readiness to cope should the number of those who require hospitalisation rise exponentially. The question I posed then was whether opening in June would not pose the risk of a second COVID-19 spike as had happened in France?

According to the guidelines given by the Ministry of Health & Wellness, all institutions, including schools, must practice social distancing, where people must be about two meters apart. I argued then that if we still have classes of more than forty students, some of whom share chairs, desks, textbooks and laboratory equipment, social distancing is not feasible in schools.

I also argued that the requirement for combis to keep registers, take body temperatures, and to keep record of such in respect of all passengers, including students, was a near impossibility. To illustrate my point, I gave an example of urban schools, where students would have to be waiting for combis from as early as 5:30 am, in the cold of winter.

As you are aware, that early in the morning combis are in a rush and students struggle for combis with those going to work. Is it realistic that combi operators would keep registers; take temperatures and record such in such circumstances?  I also argued that the fact that this routine must also be done at schools compounds the problem. I gave an example of a senior secondary school with, say, 2000 students, arguing that taking body temperatures is a near impossibility considering that some schools would have only two thermometers, for instance?

I opined that even if the students arrive at school as early as 6:00 am, it is near impossible for them to complete all the said protocols in time to start their lessons at, say, 7:45 am? As you may have observed, an attempt to adhere to the above protocols has resulted in students overcrowding, for instance, in queues at the school gate, something which increases the risk of infection.

Then there is the requirement to wash hands regularly. I questioned whether our schools would have enough washing basins and soap or sanitizers for such? Even if we had enough, how many students would wash their hands, especially in the cold of winter?

Then there is the requirement to wear face masks. I had a suspicion that it will be difficult for students, especially at lower primary school to wear face masks at all, or to wear them properly. Then there are boarding schools whose hostels are, as of necessity, congested, with bunker beds and shared showers. In some schools, about 98% of students are boarders. I wondered how social distancing and hygiene would be ensured in such an environment?

Then there is mealtime where students queue for meals; seat in groups when they eat; and gather at the tap for washing their hands and utensils after meals. Then there are primary school students, especially at lower levels, who, even if they may have been told that COVID-19 is a deadly virus, may not have the cognitive and affectionate ability to comply with the social distancing and hygiene protocols.

I concluded that if strict regard is had to the aforegoing, schools would not re-open in June, even in January 2021. I, however, opined that that would have devastating consequences in the long term, contending that we must make do with what we have and re-open schools as soon as it is safe to do so for the sake of our children’s future.

For me, the question was: when and how, then, should we re-open schools? I gave three alternatives in order of priority. The first alternative was for schools to re-open in July. This view was informed by the fact that June is the coldest month of the year, during which many people contact the influenza virus and suffer bouts of flue.

It was my view that if schools opened in June, we may face a double jeopardy of flue and COVID-19 in schools. I contended that because when somebody has flue, they have a temperature rise, this will pose a challenge considering the requirement to take temperatures for COVID-19.

I argued that, as per the COVID-19 protocols, we could end up having to refer many students whose temperatures are more than 37.4 Degrees Celsius not because of COVID-19, but because of a common cold, something which would, no doubt, overwhelm our system.

As you are aware, we have students with such underlying illnesses as Asthma. Ordinarily, such conditions worsen in winter. Some may be triggered by allergies, and some students may be allergic to the sanitizers that will be used. The second alternative was for only completing classes (i.e. Standard 7, Form 3 and Form 5) to re-open in June, and the rest to re-open in January 2021.

In my view, this would free up classrooms; laboratories; hostels and dining halls, making compliance with the COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene protocols feasible. The third alternative was for only Form 5s to re-open in June and the rest, including Standard 7s and Form 3s, to re-open in January 2021.

As you are aware, we have automatic progression from Standard 7 to Form 1. We also have near automatic progression from Form 3 to Form 4. In my view, there would, therefore, be limited impact on Standard 7s and Form 3s since their examinations are, for all intents and purposes, more formative than summative.

I opined that to cater for the subject matter the students would have lost, a bridging course and/or remedial lessons could be developed for January 2021. Also, the Form 1s and Form 4s could open early and have reduced school vacations to cover up for lost time. I argued that, in any event, students taking such practical subjects as Agriculture, Home Economics and Design & Technology have already lost a lot of time in preparing for their practical examinations.

At the time, government had hinted at the possibility of using the double shift system in terms of which a class would be split into two, with each sub-class coming to school at different times. You may be aware that this system has been used before and it was stopped because of the numerous problems it presented. Besides overworking teachers, something which affected their delivery and led to poor results among students, some students were attacked and raped by criminals because they had to knock off late from school.

I argued that in the COVID-19 era, this would be problematic because students, especially in urban areas, would be put at the risk of boarding combis which have not been sanitized and without the requisite social distancing since such protocols are unlikely to be observed when it is dark, especially in winter.

From the new infections recorded in the one school in Gaborone and another in Mogoditshane, it is clear that if the COVID-19 virus finds its way into a school, many students may be infected.
Therefore, in view of my argument that it is difficult for students to comply with COVID-19 protocols, it may be in the children’s best interest that school re-opening be delayed until it is safe for them to return.

In my view, considering that August is said to be the peak month for many countries, including our neighbour, South Africa, it may be advisable to re-open schools in January 2021 because after August/September very little will be left of third term. Logically, the January 2021 argument should only be applicable for the schools in the Greater Gaborone zone, but if the Greater Gaborone zone schools are to remain closed, so too should schools in the rest of the country because students sit for the same national examinations.

*Ndulamo Anthony Morima, LLM(NWU); LLB(UNISA); DSE(UB); CoP (BAC); CoP (IISA) is the proprietor of Morima Attorneys. He can be contacted at 71410352 or HYPERLINK “mailto:anmorima@gmail.com” anmorima@gmail.com

Continue Reading

Columns

The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

Continue Reading

Columns

A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

Continue Reading

Columns

Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

This content is locked

Login To Unlock The Content!

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!