Govt shuts down schools due to Covid-19

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Limpho Sello

THE government has closed schools due to the rising Covid-19 infections at the places of learning and in the country in general.

Announcing the decision on national television over the weekend, Education and Training Minister ‘Mamookho Phiri, said, “the ministry of education has resolved to close schools from 26 June to 1 August 2021 due to the rising numbers of Covid-19 infections.

“The education sector is very much challenged by the impact of Covid-19. We therefore strongly appeal to teachers and learners to stay at home while parents are also expected to keep their children at home.”

The closure of the schools follows a recent surge in infections particularly in Leribe where six schools and 20 villages registered a total of 114 infections last week.

National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) CEO ‘Malitaba Litaba said the hardest hit was Khethisa High School where 77 learners tested positive to the virus.

Dr Litaba said the Khethisa school infections were first detected on 8 June 2021. They were detected after one of the grade 10 learners at the boarding school had presented symptoms of Covid-19.

After the learner’s tests at a local clinic returned a positive result, other learners who had been in contact with the pupil were traced and tested resulting in a total of 77 positive cases from the school.

By yesterday, Lesotho had recorded 11 344 cumulative infections and 329 deaths.

The closure of schools comes at a time when schools were in the middle of their mid-term examinations, forcing them to halt the tests.

The ministry’s decision has not been well-received by the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) whose secretary general, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, said they should have been allowed to complete the examinations.

“The minute you scrap off an important component of education which is assessment, you are saying you are not considering education as important,” Mr Ntsibolane said.

“The schools were closed when we were in the middle of examinations. This (closure of schools during examinations) has its challenges because some learners last set for exams in December 2019 and they were promoted to the next grade without writing any examinations in 2020,” Mr Ntsibolane added.

He said teachers would be overburdened with teaching, supervising examinations and marking when schools reopen next month.

He said learners should have been allowed to complete the school term which would have ended this week anyway.

He said he did not see how closing a week earlier would make a huge difference in stopping the spread of the pandemic.

“After all, parents and others continue to attend political rallies, alcohol sales continue and everything else continues as normal except for schools which are being closed. So, this means that infections will continue rising whether or not the schools are closed,” Mr Ntsibolane said.

Meanwhile, the Lesotho College of Education has also closed its Maseru campus after some students tested positive to the virus last week. Although the college would not give figures, some college sources said 10 students had tested positive.

In a memorandum to all students this week, the college’s registrar, Neo Sehalahala, said, “following the cases of students who have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Maseru campus, the management of the college has decided to close the college.

“All classes at the Maseru campus are to stop with immediate effect until further notice. All students who are currently on campus should vacate the college premises by midday on Monday 28 June 2021,” Mr Sehalahala wrote in the 27 June 2021 memorandum.

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