COVID-19: Pre, Primary, Secondary schools to remain closed in Zambia

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*Higher Institutions to offer only online classes
*World Bank approves $24million to support country with vaccines

By Bamidele Lawson
As part of efforts to further prevent and mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Pre, Primary and Secondary Schools in Zambia are to remain closed. However, Universities, Colleges and other higher learning will continue to conduct online classes, only.Amos MalupengaPermanent Secretary, Ministry of information and Broadcasting, who announced this in a statement, said the new directive is a fallout of the review and the preliminary assessment conducted on the readiness of the schools and higher learning institutions to re-open after 21 days of closure. He said the assessment indicates that there is a need for further preparations and monitoring of the COVID-19 situation in the country. According to Malupenga, “While Government is resolved to keeping our learners in schools as we continue responding to COVID-19, we have to strike the delicate balance between saving lives and allowing learning to continue.” He noted that “the COVID-19 situation in the country has seen a generalized person-to-person transmission of the infection with an average positivity rate of 24%, increased admissions to hospitals and deaths of which learners and staff remain at risk.”To this effect, a detailed assessment of schools, universities, colleges and other higher learning institutions countrywide will be jointly conducted by the ministries of health, general and higher education together with the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit from  8th  to 15th July 2021 to further ascertain their readiness to re-open and resume normal operations. A decision will then be made on the way forward,  subject to the evolution of the COVID-19 situation in the country.”This will be done on a case-by-case basis to encourage those schools and institutions of higher learning who maybe lagging behind in terms of implementing the COVID-19 FIVE GOLDEN rules to improve or risk indefinite closure. Therefore, this calls for diligence and aggressiveness from the school authorities in implementing these golden rules because the schools that will fall short of this standard will remain closed while the compliant ones may re-open and normalize operations.”The Permanent Secretary further warned that “consequently, sanctions from higher authorities will follow those charged with the responsibility to man these institutions that may fail to meet the benchmark for reopening. The preliminary assessment revealed that some institutions are doing more in observing the five COVID-19 golden rules while the majority have taken a laissez-faire attitude. Responsible officers will be held accountable. It will no longer be business as usual. This fight against COVID-19 calls for extra-ordinary input from all of us if we are to defeat it.”Until then, pre, primary and secondary schools will remain closed while institutions of higher learning will continue to offer only online classes. All these measures will be subject to review depending on how the pandemic evolves.”On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, President (Dr.) Edgar Chagwa Lungu, as one of the interventions to further prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the country, and protect the lives of learners, teachers and other staff in Zambian schools, had ordered the closure of pre, primary and secondary schools for 21 days with effect from Thursday, June 17, 2021.universities, colleges and other higher learning institutions were directed to conduct only online classes for one month effective  June 17, 2021.However, it was made clear that reopening is subject to review, inspection and certification of the schools, “depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic would evolve.”Meanwhile,  the World Bank announced that it has approved $24 million in additional financing to the Republic of Zambia for the acquisition and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.According to the bank, “the financing will help Zambia access and distribute COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen the country’s vaccination and health care system for COVID-19 response and maintenance of essential Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH-N) through the COVID-19 pandemic response.”Speaking, Sahr Kpundeh, World Bank Country Manager for Zambia, “Effective deployment of the vaccines will help Zambia protect its people, build human capital, and contribute to inclusive growth. Zambia’s access to COVID-19 vaccines is critical to accelerate economic and social recovery from the shock of the pandemic.”

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