Yes, we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place with regard to the school re-opening conundrum. I think restarting schools will prove to be more dangerous than keeping them closed for this academic year.
As many have correctly pointed out, if anything went wrong, children can be super-spreaders of the pandemic as many (particularly the younger ones) may not have the self-conscious capacity to police themselves [utilize the mandatory methods to slow pandemic spread like self-spacing, washing hands with soap for 20 seconds and other actions], unlike adults who do not police themselves by choice.
Besides, order and discipline is hardly effective outside the classroom and as matters stand, many Namibians are not adhering to the basic laid down stipulations: people walk about with masks around their neck, not on mouth and nose.
It will be a project for each child to keep the mask on, to wash hands and to keep distance because these expectations are hardly enforced in many homes. Not one school will know the origin and contacts of each child returning to school, let alone having access to effective screening tools. Teachers and matrons of hostels will not have the time to police children. The consistent and standard levels of hygiene of ablution blocks of hostels and schools is non-existent in many cases.
In the Windhoek environment alone, many children from the western suburbs walk up to ten kilometers to go to schools in Khomasdal and parts of central Windhoek. Perhaps 60 percent of our children walk or take cramped public transportation to get to school.
In this process, they hug and kiss their friends and may be exposed. Opening schools will thus do more harm than good to the exercise of effectively ring-fencing potential high risk zones.
I strongly feel that we must rather lose an academic year with all the challenges that go with that, than compromising the potential hold we have on containing COVID-19.
There is therefore a case for reviewing the decision to open schools.
The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous. Send us your point of view on this subject – Ed