Jackie Wilson Asheeke

A teacher at the Coast tested positive for the pandemic. Yet, the risk-averse principal took no urgent steps to protect the students, other teachers and staff that were exposed. He said that he was waiting for ‘instructions’. COVID-19 does not need instructions or paperwork; it takes charge without permission. This incident and similar stories force me to wonder if, at this late date, people understand that the pandemic is real.

The school principal is claiming bureaucracy as his ‘excuse’ for inaction. He says he must be ‘told’ to close the school or take other actions. He’s waiting for his email to find its way to the correct decision-maker. Is he so mired in the don’t-blame-me dance that he would rather condemn everyone (including himself and his own family) to sickness rather than act?

The unfortunate teacher was ill for some days. She was told to come to the school office to sign a leave form! Why weren’t red flags flying with a sick teacher in the middle of a raging pandemic in the nation’s COVID-19 hotspot? Until her condition was confirmed, she should have been told to stay at home. This is basic common sense. The sick leave forms could have been signed and submitted electronically. Why will people not realize how serious this situation really is?

That principal should be suspended without pay for reckless endangerment. If I were a parent of a child in that teacher’s classroom, I would demand answers. Every second that the principal took no action compounded the danger. He should have known that he must get the kids out of the school. The building must be fumigated (particularly every area the teacher touched). The ministry of health needed to be alerted. And the school should have assisted in tracing exercises and informed all parents.

Surely, when schools began reopening, a plan of pandemic protective action approved at the top was put in place? There was certainly a mandated ‘what-if’ action plan for each school upon re-opening. If not, then the education ministry has serious pandemic management questions to answer.

If there were a fire raging in the school, would that principal call Windhoek and wait to be ‘told’ to pull the alarm and evacuate the school? I would hope there are emergency fire plans in place. COVID-19 loose in a school is no different from a fire. It must be handled as a life-threatening emergency.

The pandemic is raging at the coast – everyone already knows this. And yet, people are ‘escaping’ from quarantine. They are not showing up to be isolated once they have tested positive. They are infected or exposed and running back to their home villages as if this thing some joke.

Those who test positive or feel sick are in a panic about what to do. Ignoring the urgency of the situation, they are infecting every single person they contact. No one has the right to put other people in danger because THEY are afraid. Such selfishness is unacceptable.

With treatment and the other preventative methods, there is a good chance that someone who is infected can survive. With regret, I now accept the sentiment of former health minister Haufiku. He said that the situation at the coast is out of control and must only be managed. If people are acting like that school principal or running away even though they test positive, then I too throw my hands up in surrender.

The pandemic is loose in the general population. This was inevitable given that too many people did not get serious earlier on. People who feel ill do not want to be tagged as a ‘case’ so they hide their condition. This is a reality in Namibia now.

As much as possible, I will stay at home. Stores are open, cafes and restaurants are serving, but that risk is now too high for me. The rules via the ‘stages’ are easing up just as the numbers of confirmed cases are exploding. We must continue to open the country up lest we die economically. And yet, as we open up, more people will get sick. The entire world faces this dilemma.

Still, I have some hope that ordinary people will get serious about the pandemic. We all must act with concern for the lives of others as a priority. Perhaps the confirmed cases will level out. Until then, we must err on the side of abundant caution.