Swaziland Teachers Say Govt. Plan to Reopen Schools From Coronavirus Lockdown Unsafe

Union leaders have urged the Swaziland (eSwatini) Government not to go ahead with plans to reopen schools next week from coronavirus lockdown because it is unsafe to do so.

The Swazi Ministry of Education and Training instructed high school teachers to return to work on Monday (29 June 2020) ahead of a partial reopening of schools starting 6 July.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) reported it had visited 20 schools in rural areas across the kingdom and found none met the minimum safety requirement to reopen. It said government was not assisting these schools to put proper measures in place.

SNAT also reported it found 847 teachers said they had underlying health conditions and should shelter during the present coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

In a message to teachers SNAT urged them not to report for work until safety measures were in place.

The message said in part, 'SNAT really wants schools to reopen for teaching and learning to continue. However, as a human rights organisation we cannot put ourselves in a position where we will find ourselves infecting one another with the virus. We cannot allow a situation where we will find ourselves even infecting the learners whom we want to impart knowledge to.'

SNAT had previously drawn up a list of issues it wanted addressed before schools could safely reopen. They included schools to be disinfected, all children tested for coronavirus, a nurse on site at every school and the transportation of learners to conform with social distance requirements. The marking of class work and sharing of books should be also be discontinued, SNAT said.

Schools have been closed in Swaziland since 18 March.

Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard-Mabuza told the House of Assembly that E56 million (US$3.2 million) was needed to pay for the school reopening. That money has yet to be released by the government.

The number of deaths from coronavirus in Swaziland nearly doubled to 11 in the past week, according to official Ministry of Health figures. As of 28 June, 781 people had tested positive.

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