Tujoromajo Kasuto

Education, Arts and Culture Ministry plans to go ahead with face-to-face learning despite alarming rise in COVID-19 cases.

Namibia reported 1,432 new COVID-19 cases on Friday evening, the highest number of new cases ever recorded in 24 hours, a day after the country reported 1,045 cases. The Executive Director of the Ministry, Sanet Steenkamp, says the ministry was taking the situation case by case. “At this moment the ministry is only looking at case by case, if the case arises for example the school in Aroab where the Ministry of Health advises the school must close and other schools continue to operate until a final decision is made by the Ministry of Health, which is discussed at national level, thoroughly assessed and with the guidance of the ministry’s epidemiologists.”

Steenkamp states that shutting down schools amidst the third wave was not the ministry’s decision to make but one whose pros and cons would have to be weighed. “Human life, safety and health come first. There is a dashboard monitoring committee where the Ministry of Education with all the other ministries as well as health are all part of that.”

“The COVID-19 monitoring team is currently reviewing the epidemiological situation with a view to mount an appropriate response where the cooperation of everybody will be needed.” This comes after a 14-year-old pupil at Hage Geingob High School in Katutura, died in his sleep at home last Monday. The autopsy revealed he died of Corona virus.

Steenkamp says the ministry has been having consultation meetings since Monday with Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) and Namibia National Teachers ‘ Union (Nantu).

Nantu Secretary General, Loide Shaanika, shares the same sentiments as Steenkamp. “Suspending any operations relating to Covid-19, you always need to be guided by the Ministry of Health and Social Services. Before the suspension of schools, we need to have alternate measures because it does not help to bring learners and teachers out of the classroom to bring them back after a month with no solution.”

In addition, Shaanika says, “one has to address and treat where the problem is because blindly suspending classes and sending this people to the communities won’t help us as when you send them back home, what should happen, should learning continue or not, if it continues how will teachers be able to reach their learners while their still at home while still at home.”

According to Shaanika, the union visited about 74 schools in Khomas to assess the situation adding that the aim is not to take one “blanket approach” as there are regions that are reporting low Covid-19 cases. “We are talking about confirmed cases and not suspected cases so we can create solution as a progressive and active union than simply telling people to go back home for two months , without knowing what happens after.”

According to the Director of Education in the Otjozondjupa Region, Josephine Mutenda, since the beginning of the second semester, about 138 learners and 24 teachers from various schools in her region are suspected of Covid-19 and are in isolation. “Four schools have temporarily closed down, in otjiwarongo, Vooruit Primary School and in Okahandja, we have three schools, Aurora Primary School, Five Rand Primary School and K.W von Marees Combined School specifically,” Mutenda Stated.

In the //Kharas Region, the Oosterheim Junior Secondary School and Keetmanshoop Secondary School are currently closed for ten days as they had positive cases that spread between two grades where learners and teachers were infected with Covid-19, as stated by the Regional Director Johannes //Hoeseb.

Meanwhile, Director of Education in the Ohangwena Region, Isaack Hamatwi, says he has had no confirmed cases of reported cases of teachers and learners in the region. “It has not been overwhelming,” says he in regard to whether COVID-19 is halting educational operations in the Ohangwena region.

The Director of Education in the Omusati Region, Laban Shapange, shared the same sentiments as he states that, “there had only been one suspected case that I can’t mention as of now but there is no reason to worry in the Omusati Region as Covid-19 is not overwhelming.”

Skyrocketing Covid¬-19 cases in Khomas sparked temporary closure of schools as positive cases of Covid-19 were reported at Hochland High, Windhoek High, Jan Möhr Secondary, Emma Hoogenhout Primary, Suiderhof Primary and M.H. Greeff Primary School. The schools are all expected to respectively resume with classes by/before Monday 14 June 2021.

Steenkamp had earlier in the week confirmed that around 165 teachers tested positive and were sent home to isolate themselves in the last ten days, after schools had begun with the second semester.

Steenkamp further adds that the schools, which report positive COVID-19 cases will discontinue with classes for a maximum of three days for fumigation.