Lesotho: Teachers Demand Update On Schools' Opening From Govt

Lesotho has now recorded 996 and 30 Covid-19 related deaths, the government has said.

The country has also recorded 472 recoveries out of 12 682 tested specimens.

In South Africa, the number of cases stood at 592 144 and 12 264 deaths as of last night. Lesotho's giant neighbour has so far recorded 485 468 recoveries out of a staggering 3,43 million tested specimens.

Globally, 22 342 456 cases and 785 197 deaths had been recorded as of yesterday evening. The number of recoveries stood at 15 080 456.

Meanwhile, Lesotho teachers' unions are mounting pressure on the Ministry of Education and Training to pronounce itself on what is left of the 2020 academic year.

A coalition of teachers' unions that include the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA) wants the government to release a statement on whether or not schools will be opened in what remains of the 2020 academic year.

Schools have been closed since March this year as the country battled to curb the spread of the Covid-19.

The Thomas Thabane led government had planned to reopen examination classes in May but the plan was shelved after the coming in of the new government on the back of an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. Mr Thabane's four parties' government was replaced by the Moeketsi Majoro-led coalition of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Democratic Congress (DC) on 20 May this year. The coalition is supported by eight smaller parties.

Last month government officials said the Ministry of Education and Training was in the process of purchasing PPE that included face masks and hand sanitisers.

Many schools are without running and the ministry's spokesperson, Molikuoa 'Mota, last month said that government had already purchased 800 water tanks to be delivered to schools that do not have running water.

Ms 'Mota said they had sought the assistance of the Rural Water Supply department in identifying sustainable water sources for schools while development partners like UNICEF, World Bank and Action Ireland Trust would assist with hand washing facilities.

There has not been any communication from the ministry whether there were plans to reopen schools and now the teachers' unions are demanding an update.

The coalition's spokesperson, Letsatsi Ntsibolane has expressed the teachers' displeasure with the government's silence.

"The government has remained mum on the future of this academic and we demand that it communicates with all stakeholders on what its plans are for the remaining part of the academic year," Mr Ntsibolane said.

"If schools will be opened, they should say. Teachers and learners alike are in the dark."

He said while they were hoping for the government reopen schools, they would stay away from work if they are not provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).

"We hold a strong position that the government should ensure the safety of teachers, students and all other employees. We do not have a problem with the schools reopening but we will oppose it at all costs if the government fails to provide the required PPE.

"We are already way behind with the academic year, especially for learners who will be sitting for their final examinations. If schools were to open on 1 September 2020, we might be able to cover for at least two months of the lost time of teaching and learning because the examinations timetables have been pushed back," he said.

Last month the Examinations Council of Lesotho (ECOL) announced that timetables for the Junior Certificate (JC) and the Lesotho General Certificate Schools Examinations (LGCSE) had been pushed back by two months to November to allow learners to recover lost learning time.

In the revised timetables, examinations will run from November and end on Christmas Eve. Under normal circumstances, examinations commence in October and end mid-November. However, Mr Ntsibolane said the extension was inadequate. He said serious considerations would have to be made to ease teaching and marking for the students "because we are in a crisis".

Mr Ntsibolane said the coalition of teachers' trade unions has requested a meeting with the Ministry of Education and Training today.

All questions to the Ministry of Education and Training were referred to principal secretary Neo Liphoto whose phone rang unanswered.

However, authoritative sources told the Lesotho Times that consultations were ongoing with the Education Advisory Council before cabinet makes final decisions.

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