Rwanda: MPs Urge Govt to Beef Up Covid-19 Control in Schools

23 November 2020

Members of Parliament have resolved that the Office of the Prime Minister have in place special measures to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic among students particularly those in boarding schools, within one month.

This is one of the resolutions by the Chamber of Deputies on Monday, November 23, as legislators adopted the report on MPs' field visits around the country to oversee the government's activities in socio-economic sectors, with a focus on response strategies to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The countrywide tours were held from November 2 through November 8, 2020.

Other resolutions to the Premier include presenting to the Chamber of Deputies the strategies to solve the cost of water which is burdening schools because of the higher demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this is expected to have been done within two months.

In addition, the MPs want the government to indicate measures in place to scale up efforts in expediting the construction of planned classrooms, and provide basic infrastructures including water, electricity and water tanks for schools that do not have them, within one month.

During their tours, the MPs assessed the progress on the construction of the classrooms, and toilet rooms, as well as the handwashing facilities and other tools, needed to ensure sanitation with the aim to establish how schools are prepared to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic when students have returned to schools.

The government plans to construct more than 22,000 new classrooms in a bid to reduce overcrowding in primary and secondary schools. The classrooms were initially expected to be complete in September 2020.

The move was partly aimed to respond to the recommended physical distancing of at least one meter between a student and another in order to curb the spread of the Covid-19 - a viral and infectious respiratory disease.

However, the lawmakers' assessment found that there are cases where construction works for classrooms and toilets had stopped or was slow, yet schools have started reopening for classes.

Among the reasons underlying this issue, MPs said, there are delays in the supply of the needed construction materials.

While presenting the report, Edda Mukabagwiza, Deputy Speaker in charge of Legislative Affairs and Government Oversight said that for instance, delays in the supply of timber to schools made them unable to get the required desks.

She cited over 20,053 desks that had to be made for schools in Rusizi District, but only 901, or about 4.5 percent, were complete by the time of the MPs' assessment.

MPS want the Prime Minister to spell out measures to speed up the supply of needed and quality equipment to the newly constructed classrooms so that they are able to function appropriately, within one month.

Handwashing facilities

Other issues that were identified during the tours include that some schools have not yet set up handwashing facilities and some had constructed them, but they were insufficient compared to the number of students that they are supposed to accommodate.

In addition, some schools had no access to piped water because of infrastructural challenges.

MP Mukabagwiza gave few examples of such cases indicating that there were no handwashing facilities at Groupe Scolaire Juru in Juru Sector of Bugesera District.

She said that Rwitongo Primary School in Burera District had no handwashing station, either, while Nyamagabe District exposed a challenge that it has not enough budget to construct 283 handwashing facilities in schools.

She added that the assessment tours found that many of the tools needed to ensure sanitation to tackle Covid-19 in schools were not enough, citing the over-diluting of liquid soap which might make it less effective in controlling the pandemic.

Moreover, some schools do not have tanks in order to retain and harvest rainwater.

Schools' concern over costly water

Mukabagwiza said that schools voiced concern that they will be burdened by the cost of water - which was already high - as a result of the increased use, given that students are required to wash their hands often in line with preventing the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Many schools requested the reduction in water tariff," she said.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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