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Teachers demand PPE before resuming classes

Ntsebeng Motsoeli 

TEACHERS unions say they will not risk their lives and those of students by resuming classes before the government provides them with personal protective equipment to protect them against Covid-19.

On Thursday Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro relaxed some of the Covid-19 restrictions and allowed the reopening of higher learning institutions and examination classes in the next two weeks.

He said the infection rate for Covid-19 had slowed down and it was safer for schools to reopen although they should do so under strict Covid-19 safety protocols.

All schools must have adequately ventilated classrooms while classes are restricted to under 50 learners. All the schools must also have running water while learners and staff must have face masks and sanitisers.

The Ministry of Education and Training has undertaken to provide all these essentials and last month said water tanks were already being delivered across the country for public schools that do not have water supply.

It is not yet clear how far the ministry has gone in delivering all other safety materials.

All questions to the Ministry of Education and Training were referred to principal secretary Neo Liphoto whose phone rang unanswered.

Teachers yesterday said while they welcomed the reopening of schools, they would not compromise their safety and that of learners if the government failed to provide PPEs.

Spokesperson of a coalition of teachers’ unions, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, yesterday said they were ready to start work but only on condition that the government ensured the safety of learners and staff. The coalition include the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA).

“We are glad that government has finally made an announcement but the big issue now is to ensure the safety of learners and teachers,” Mr Ntsibolane said.

“Our expectation is that… the government should ensure that all the PPE is provided to adhere to safety protocols. In the meantime, teachers will start making preparations at schools separating classes and marking isolation spaces for learners.

“There are issues such as lost teaching and learning time that have not been clarified but those are not as important as ensuring safety and life preservation. We are meeting on Monday (tomorrow) with the ministry and they will inform us on how they plan to prepare for the reopening. We are hoping that everything will be ready in the next two weeks or else we will stay away from work.”

Lesotho has now recorded 1 015 Covid-19 cases and 30 deaths.

Schools have been closed since March this year as the country battled to curb the spread of the virus

The Thomas Thabane led government had planned to reopen examination classes in May but the plan was shelved after cases spiralled. The new government of Moeketsi Majoro kept the schools shut.

Last month government officials said the Ministry of Education and Training was in the process of purchasing PPE that included face masks and hand sanitisers.

Many schools are without running water and the ministry’s spokesperson, Molikuoa ‘Mota, said the government had already purchased 800 water tanks for schools that did not have running water.

Ms ‘Mota said they had sought the assistance of the Rural Water Supply department in identifying sustainable water sources for schools while development partners like UNICEF, World Bank and Action Ireland Trust would assist with hand washing facilities.

Teachers and learners alike have been edgy after the Examinations Council of Lesotho (ECOL) last month announced that timetables for the Junior Certificate (JC) and the Lesotho General Certificate Schools Examinations (LGCSE) had been pushed back by two months to November. This to allow learners to recover lost learning time.

In the revised timetables, examinations will run from November and end on Christmas Eve. Under normal circumstances, examinations commence in October and end mid-November. However, Mr Ntsibolane said the extension was inadequate “because we are in a crisis”.

 

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