Namibia: Staggered Return to the Classroom

The ministry of education yesterday announced a staggered return to classroom teaching, following consultations with various stakeholders.

Cabinet has endorsed the plan to reopen schools on 3 June for critical grades such as 11 and 12 to resume face-to-face classes as part of phase 1 in order to finish the academic year on 18 December 2020. Namibia is currently in stage 2 of the post-lockdown period, which officially ends on 2 June. Initially, the government had announced that all schools would resume face-to-face classes on 3 August and during stage 4 of the post-Covid-19 lockdown period.

The reopening of classrooms has since been categorised in four phases. Phase 2 will see the resumption of pre-primary to grade 3 on 22 June until 18 December 2020. This will be followed by the resumption of face-to-face teaching for grades 7 and 9 in phase 3, starting 6 July until 18 December. Grades 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 are expected to return to the classroom on 20 July as part of phase 4.

Education ministry executive director Sanet Steenkamp explained the critical grades were resuming classes first because they had to prepare for the external examinations. Equally, she said, schools still have to observe health protocols of the state of emergency, hence the return to the classroom in phases.

Teachers will be allowed a mid-term break between 22-29 May. "The Ministry of Education, Arts, and Culture together with the regional directorates of education, arts and culture, school principals, parents, other stakeholders and the community at large will make all the resources at its disposal available to ensure that the safety of the learners is prioritised and ensured as far as possible, at the schools," Steenkamp assured.

Last week, the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) and Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) all agreed that critical grades should resume on 3 June instead of delaying the academic calendar. Their proposal is similar to that of former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa who also suggested learners who are in critical grades should be allowed to resume classes.

Namibia has not reported a single Covid-19 case for over 42 days now. The country still has 16 confirmed cases, including 13 recoveries and three active cases.

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