Malawi: Yes, Malawi Schools Must Open, but September Is Irrationally Abrupt

19 August 2020

President Lazarus Chakwera has hinted on the decision to open schools--primary, secondary and tertiary--this coming September.

Controversial as it sounds, with the background of continued rise in COVID-19 cases being registered, we support President Chakwera's decision but we disagree with going ahead in September.

The decision to open schools hinges on two aspects: the risk of opening the schools and the costs of keeping closed.

In our qualitative assessment, as Nyasa Times, we feel the risk of opening the schools is low to the learners health; and the costs of keeping them closed is huge both to the country's economy and also to the progress of our society large.

Let's, in the first place, examine the risk of opening the school.

The greatest risk of opening the school lies in mass exposure of the learners, through increased mobility and congestion, to contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Very true.

However, if we open these schools in phases, for instance start with primary school, there is scientific glory we can run on. Science tells us that the risk of children--especially from birth to about 18--contracting or spreading COVID-19 is quite negligible.

To mean, with proper safety measures starting from transportation, decongestion of classrooms, mass use of masks, sanitization and limiting time for lessons, we may return normalcy.

In other words, the risk we have with opening schools is an issue which can be handled with careful planning and cautious execution.

However, the cost of keeping these schools closed is getting huge with each passing day.

Pitiful cases of young girls getting unwanted and unplanned pregnant continue to skyrocket and, we all know, the repercussion of multiplying poverty these cases are.

You should also be concerned with the welfare of people working in the private schools sector--teachers, support staff, unskilled laborers, etc; for how long will they suffer without even a bailout from government?

We should think of the disruption of having learners, especially younger ones, out of classroom for some time. We are nursing a generation that will be unskilled and uneducated, because many will lose interest in the relevance of education.

This list explaining the costs of keeping schools closed is long; you can add to it.

That is why, it is our submission that government needs to start laying out plans to open schools now and, when exhausted, government should come up with realistic dates of executing their plan.

September is abruptly too soon for a cautious execution of school's opening. We need, at least, two months to careful handle the opening of the schools.

Otherwise the risk of opening the schools is low; the cost of keeping them closed is huge. Schools must open.

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