by Sakeus Iikela, Charmaine Ngatjiheue and Hileni Nembwaya

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob is expected to brief the nation on the government’s direction with regards to the anticipated resumption of face-to-face classes today.

Hage Geingob

The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture yesterday issued a directive to halt the resumption of face-to-face classes for pre-primary children and Grades 1 to 3.

The resumption was in line with the government’s stage 4 lockdown exit plan.

Minister of education, arts and culture Anna Nghipondoka said pupils who are already at hostels should remain there until further notice.

More than 300 000 pupils were expected to return to schools today.

This has been met with mixed feelings after a pupil at Mariental Secondary School tested positive for Covid-19.

Namibia has so far recorded 63 Covid-19 cases with more than 10 local transmissions.

Swapo youth league information secretary Gerson Dumeni in a statement issued on Saturday said the government must suspend face-to-face classes for Grades 0 to 10 as most schools are not safe for pupils.

Dumeni recommended that the suspension should last countrywide until at least August.

“We strongly feel the worst is still to come – particularly if the junior primary level starts with face-to-face classes,” he said.

Nudo youth league secretary Veparura Kandirikitira also condemned the reopening of schools, saying the government was inconsiderate.

Kandirikitira said the president should prioritise the health of Namibians as promised when the country recorded its first two Covid-19 cases.

He urged parents not to send their children to school.

Some schools in the Ohangwena region without proper ablution facilities had planned to resume face-to-face classes today.

In addition, overcrowding is a challenge, mostly at government schools in Ohangwena, with more than 43 000 pupils in junior primary grades and grades that were expected to return to classrooms today.

The region has a total of 23 lower primary to junior primary schools.

Isack Hamatwi, the region’s education director, said there were over 40 schools which were still in dire need of ablution facilities in the region.

More than 29 schools do not have clean drinking water, a situation Hamatwi described as dangerous.

Additionally, the government has given permission to more than 1 400 Angolan pupils to attend classes in the Ohangwena region, Hamatwi said. Despite these challenges, he said schools were ready and safe to resume face-to-face classes today. He said his office was in the process of procuring temporary ablution facilities, and a number of unidentified schools will be funded to do renovations. Water tanks would be provided to 10 schools without water, he said. Before the announcement to halt classes, Edda Bohn, the education ministry’s deputy director of formal education, said the government was determined to allow schools to resume.

The government’s plan for the resumption encompasses phases, she said, of which phase 2 would have kicked in today. Bohn said the main aim for schools to reopen is to enable the maximum time for pupils to practise skills and develop holistically.

She said the ministry has received N$58 million to prepare schools to open amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

*This article has been updated.

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