Kandjemuni Kamuiiri

Boarding and high schools have been fingered as the main culprits in the spread of Covid-19, amid a spike in learner cases, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has revealed.

“We want to determine why there is such a high spike in the number of learners, because we find that it’s mostly in boarding schools. But we also want to see what it is that the schools are doing right and what it is that they need to improve,” the Ministry’s Executive Director (ED), Sanet Steenkamp, said adding that disregard for COVID-19 regulations was found to be prevalent in secondary schools.

“We did a preliminary assessment and we find that primary schools are doing excellent but we did find some secondary schools, where there is a disregard for wearing of masks correctly, and where children are grouping and not complying with the issue of open spaces and social distance,” she said.

According to Steenkamp, Rehoboth High School, has emerged as one of the schools with high COVID-19 cases. She added that verbal reports were received in terms of adherence in schools to the COVID-19 restriction measures and as a result some high schools are not adhering to the regulations in place.

“When we have the outcome of the investigation we will make a decision together with the Health Ministry as to how we’re moving forward in the second term because we are realizing that the children are losing out too much,” Steenkamp said further.

“The ministry is not looking into the closing of schools indefinitely because it doesn’t help when we close all the schools across the country. As things are, children are already missing more than 50 percent of their school because of the rotating. If it’s every other day it’s still fine but if a child remains out of school for one week and remains at school for another week it becomes problematic,” she affirmed.

Despite assurances by the Ministry in February that immediate action would be taken in terms of isolating learners, as well as the immediate contact tracing of those that were in close contacts for more than 15 minutes, Steenkamp said the ministry is only working with highly affected schools, leaving cases in other schools to increase before being attended to.

“We take a school by school approach, we take a localised approach and we only work with the schools that have been affected,” she said.

“We have availed financials, resources, we have provided sanitation, and we looked into the infrastructure of the schools, water provision of which the 138 of 193 schools that required water now fully have water. We still have the issue in Kavango East and a few in Kavango West that must still be attended to by the Ministry of Agriculture,” she said. Steenkamp added that with the infrastructure they are quite happy that they have also constructed and renovated a number of ablution facilities. And are also happy in terms of liquid soap and sanitizers that are still in place at the schools.

“We have lost teachers, it’s very sad to the education fraternity because these are the people that sacrifice to come to school. We must keep in mind that they come from communities and they have houses, they children and families of their own. We at this stage can only extend our sincere condolences,” she observed sadly.

The Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU) Secretary General, Loide Shaanika, said the union is concerned about the spiking COVID-19 cases.

“It is equally a concern to us, we are trying to investigate as to why the cases are rising higher in boarding schools because these learners are hardly out of classes. There are some schools that are still in a dilapidated state, but we are sure that most of these schools also have their health and safety essentials needed, we also equally worried with them,” said Shaanika.

“If parents visit the kids at school, we want to make sure that the strict COVID-19 measures are being adhered to. It is something that we need to investigate to see what the cause is, because it is worrisome.”

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) COVID-19 cases have been reported from all corners of the country. “All thirteen regions except Zambezi have been recorded,” Minister Kalumbi Shangula said.

Among the confirmed cases in the weekend update to date, 134 are students and 34 teachers from different schools.