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SCHOOLS RE-OPEN TODAY

By Eswatini Observer Reporters | 2020-07-06

WITH schools reopening today, there are mixed feelings about their state of readiness.

  Boarding schools in urban areas have reported a high number of pupils who returned whilst concerns remain in some rural schools.

Visits by reporters to some of the urban schools yesterday showed some impressive numbers of returning boarders.

With about 13 high schools in the Shiselweni region recorded by the Ministry of Education and Training as not ready, the minister Lady Howard-Mabuza stated that those schools should remain closed until they complied with the required COVID-19 guidelines.

Meanwhile, SNAT Secretary General Sikelela Dlamini indicated that their findings show that 24 schools will not be ready to re-open today.

Dlamini said as a result, they will be moving an urgent application in court this morning to suspend the decision to reopen schools until all of them are ready. Dlamini said they cannot allow a situation where some pupils get an advantage over others, who will remain at home, yet the goal is to prepare all of them to be ready for examinations in a few months’ time. Visited boarding schools  indicated that they were ready and a high number of boarders returned.

At St Mark’s High, the school had established a checking point by the gate, where pupils and parents were screened and registered for follow-ups should COVID-19 symptoms show in their children.

Matron Gugu Nhlabatsi said they are definitely ready for the school opening today, and they were still making additions to their safety list.

“I can say we are ready, we are still awaiting tanks because we think the washing of hands with running water will make sense other than the whole school relying on the sanitiser tank by the gate,” she said.  One of the parents said he reluctantly brought his child to school given the seriousness of the virus.

 “I’m not happy about my child going back to school where they might catch the virus easily, but I trust the school and government ensured that they will be safe and cautious with the virus,” said Phendu Dlamini.

Another parent said they were practically ready for everything that would come with taking their children to school, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they are safe.

“I gave my child six masks and a box of the surgical ones, there is nothing we can do, they are already behind with  the educational calendar, all we have to advocate for is their safety,” said Themba Matsebula. 

 “I was scared of leaving home, my mother was literally crying but they also understood that school is important and we cannot compromise on it anymore, so here we are ready to learn and stay safe against the virus,” said Mbalenhle Mdluli, a Form 6 pupil. Khulekani Dlamini and Siphesihle Shabangu both said they are very much ready to be back at school and actually missed school and seeing different faces and people. “I’m happy to be here, the fate of the virus simply relies on our hands and I'm ready to take care of my safety and get back to my books,” said Dlamini. The same situation applied at Manzini Nazarene High School. Parents and pupils were impressed by the school’s state of readiness. When taken on a tour by the school’s Deputy Principal Samuel Magagula, he stated that the 120 Form V pupils will occupy four classrooms, so as to allow 19 of them per class and a teacher will be the 20th person in the room.

He said on normal days, the pupils used to occupy only three classrooms. Inside each classroom, the floors have been marked by one metre apart to guide scholars on where each desk should be positioned at all times.

Also, stickers with COVID-19 messages have been put on each desk in an effort to remind the learners of what they are expected to do in correspondence with the COVID-19 Regulations and safe practices. “Each teacher will bring in a hand sanitiser to provide for the learners before a lesson starts hourly,” said Magagula.

In the dormitories, the deputy principal said five to seven pupils used to share one cubicle, but now only four will do. He said the others will use dormitories that were usually occupied by the Form IVs and other grades. The dining hall occupation will also change, as Magagula said female and male pupils will use it interchangeably, so as to ensure that there is enough room to observe social distancing. When learners arrived at the hostel yesterday, their parents were not allowed to pass through to the hostel premises, and pupils were registered to ensure that they had not been exposed to COVID-19 before entering the school grounds.

Noting that there are scholars with underlying illnesses, Magagula said the school has prepared special dormitories for them where two can share a cubicle.

Some of the parents who were interviewed on their opinions said they feared the unknown now that their children have gone back to school amid the COVID-19 situation. However, they said they are cognizant of the importance that their children resume classes. “I wish the ministry of education could have regulated that they are tested before they mingle here,” said Babe Vilane.

He added that he had advised his child to be responsible for her life and observe all the regulations as stated by the ministry of health.

In Nhlangano, Starsky Mkhonta reports that at Evelyn Baring High School, the same measures of passing through a checking point were applied to screen and register returning pupils.  By late afternoon, only two of the 32 boarding Form Vs had returned whilst only two were still to report in. Tom Dlamini, the Principal said they were on the alert and stated that all pupils who were arriving at the hostel needed to pass through the checkpoint just like it is expected to happen today when the rest of the other Form Five day scholars arrive. “The boarding master, with the help of one of the deputies are at the hostel and are checking the temperatures of everyone entering the premises,” said Dlamini.

 “We have all things in place and when we open tomorrow (today), we want to make sure all the precautions and guidelines are followed. The pupils will fill forms, which show they are well and even teachers as well as support staff, they will undergo the same process. Otherwise, we are geared up to start work,” said school’s deputy Maria Lukhele.

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