UNIONS say schools reopening for teachers was a rushed decision as some of the schools’ premises are in a deplorable state and do not adhere to standards to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Speaking at the Covid-19 Communication Centre this afternoon, unions said teachers’ working environment has always been a concern and the pandemic has enhanced the issue.
Representing the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu), Naftal Shigwedha said regional structures are monitoring the situation of schools reopening for teachers.
Shigwedha said they were consulting with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, which decided schools should reopen on 3 August for the third quarter.
“The decision to reopen schools was rushed. Certain schools do not have proper ablution facilities and no running water. Teachers are raising a lot of issues about health and security. We are urging the ministry to reconsider and to only allow management, and to arrange for teachers to return at a later stage,” he said.
Shigwedha said social distancing may be a problem for various schools. He called on the government to provide teachers with masks.
“Our union engaged the ministry. If some of the issues are not addressed at ministerial level, we would seek a higher audience such as the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene,” he said.
Teachers Union of Namibia president Toini Nauyoma agreed with Nantu, saying teachers are concerned about their health and there are no clear guidelines from the education ministry.
“Guidelines from the government were promised, but teachers are still waiting,” she said.
Nauyoma suggested that this time be used to extensively train teachers through refresher courses.
“This is our proposal to the government; to roll out the calendar to start in June and other grades can be promoted to the next grades,” she said.
Nauyoma said schools are not prepared to receive teachers as per the World Health Organisation’s standards to fight the novel coronavirus. She said some schools don’t have running water, and despite complaints by teachers, the ministry has not intervened yet.
Deputy executive director for finance and administration Knox Imbuwa admitted the ministry delayed the release of proper guidelines on teachers’ role during the pandemic.
“I can however tell you that these guidelines have been finalised and would be made available today,” he said.
Imbuwa said the ministry has been in constant communication with the unions and reached consensus on the option the ministry presented to Cabinet. He said the ministry took into consideration the volatility of the options, but there is no fixed date for the reopening of schools.
“As a result of our consultations, we chose option one, which is for schools to reopen on 3 August and close on 21 May 2021,” he said.
Imbuwa said the Covid-19 situation is new to all Namibians, but the education ministry is consulting the finance ministry to provide adequate sanitation.
He said 193 schools have been identified to be in critical need of sanitation and water.
“We have had various engagements with the unions and we appreciate their input,” he said.