Malawi: Mhrc Warns Against Indefinite Closure of Schools Because of Covid-19

21 January 2021

Malawi Human Rights Commissioner (MHRC) has warmed government against closure of schools without a well thought strategy.

MHRC says closing schools is not best solution because Covid-19 is likely to stay for long and doing so would affect the socio-economic status of teachers and other workers.

"Government should come up with measures that enable right to education to be enjoyed by all children while at the same time safeguarding right to life in the context of Covid-19, as it is evident the pandemic may not end soon," reads a statement from MHRC.

The commission alls for an appeal for inclusive leadership and collective responsibility in response and recovery efforts amid escalating cases of Covid-19 in the country.

The statement is signed by the Commission's Executive Secretary Habiba Osman.

President Lazarus Chakwera ordered on Sunday closure of schools for three weeks as a measure of containing Covid-19 among learners.

MHRC says business or life must continue despite the pandemic and that any decision to close schools must be accompanied by a well thought through plan.

"Any decision around indefinite closure of schools in the context of Covid-19 must be accompanied by a well thought through strategy to ensure continuity of education as well as address psychosocial economic plight of both teachers and learners in the context indefinite closure of schools. The closure of schools led to many teachers and other workers losing their jobs or not getting their remuneration... ," reads the statement.

The Commission accuses government through the Ministries of Education and Health of being slow and reactive in its preventive and responsive to the second wave of Covid-19 in schools which has led to deaths of both teachers and learners.

The commission observes that the deaths and lack of proper strategy are worrisome because they have instilled fear and anxiety in education stakeholders that include learners, teachers, and parents as right to life is threatened while pursuing right to education.

"However, the Commission's guidance is that the decision the Ministry of Education whether to close schools indefinitely or not should be informed by the current evidence, the learnings from the first wave of Covid-19 as well as the balance between the right to life and right to education," reads the statement.

Schools are expected to reopen on February 8, 2021 after a three week break.

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