by Roxane Bayer and Charmaine Ngatjheue

SOME private schools have requested parents to sign Covid-19 indemnity forms once pupils return to school.

The entrance of the St. George’s Diocesan School.

One of these schools is St George’s Diocesan School in Windhoek.

Responding to questions from The Namibian yesterday, St Georges’ executive head Berdine Beukes said the recommendation for parents to sign indemnity forms emanates from the best practice guidelines of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa), of which the school is a member.

Beukes said the school’s council also approved the decision.

She said the school ordinarily requires parents to sign indemnity forms when pupils go on school trips and sport tours.

She said it is not an attempt by the school to abdicate responsibility for the health and safety of the children in its care.

The step is merely to ensure parents understand all steps to mitigate risks have been taken, and if contamination or injury occurs it was not as a result of an oversight or negligence on the school’s part.

“We understand the grave concerns parents have with regards to the risks associated with Covid-19, and therefore advise that they fully acquaint themselves with the school’s health and safety measures and decide if such measures provide the necessary comfort,” Beukes said.

She said keeping the entire school community safe is a joint responsibility.

“We must mitigate all emerging risks collaboratively. The school is doing everything possible to secure the health and safety of our students in accordance with directives/guidelines of the government,” she said.

Beukes said the specific measures include taking the temperature of everyone entering the school grounds.

Temperatures above 38 degrees Celsius will be regarded as unacceptable and the pupil/staff member will have to return home.

Moreover, face shields will be provided to all primary school children to wear.

“College students will wear masks or the school buff. Mobile hand sanitising and washing stations will be available all over the premises. Students will be required to wash or sanitise their hands regularly,” she said.

Beukes said surfaces in and around classrooms, as well as at common areas, will be disinfected on an hourly basis, and the school will stagger slots for breaks and limit the number of pupils on break in one area at a time.

St Paul’s College, also in Windhoek, said attending classes will be compulsory for Grade 11 and 12 pupils, adding they would also provide children with indemnity forms to sign when returning to school.

Windhoek Gymnasium Private School’s spokesperson, Luanne Bekker, told The Namibian the school would be following a parallel model for learning for the foreseeable future.

“Our pupils have the option to either follow classes via remote learning or via contact sessions at school,” she said, adding it is therefore not compulsory for children to attend contact sessions at school.

The Deutche Höhere Privatschule Windhoek (DHPS) said, while they are excited for Grade 11 and 12 pupils to finally return to school tomorrow, they will not be sending out indemnity forms.

Meanwhile, executive director of education, arts and culture Sanet Steenkamp told The Namibian yesterday the ministry is only aware of one school, which circulated an indemnity form for parents to sign.

“This matter is being taken up with the Office of the Attorney General (AG) for further engagement, guidance and advice,” she said.

Steenkamp said the ministry will not make any legal decisions without consulting the AGs office on whether it would also require parents to complete indemnity forms.

“At this stage, we put all our resources and energy into getting our schools ready and improving our infrastructure. Thus, we will revert after consultations with the AG office,” she said.

Questions and calls to the AG went unanswered.

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