Ministry of Education Must Do the Needful Before Allowing More Students Return To Class As COVID-19 Threat Lurks
PLANS TO ALLOW more students return to the classroom in the coming weeks must be treated with the outmost care as the country continues to record more COVID-19 cases.
ACCORDING TO the national public health Institute of Liberia, as of July 28, the country has recorded 1,177 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 459 of this being active cases. The rate of infection has increased since June, but health authorities argued that it is because more tests are being done, hence the surge in the number of new cases.
BE AS IT MAY, curbing the spread of the contagion is the primary objective. So, as the government relaxes restrictions it must do it meticulously to avert a spike in new cases. We would like to caution the Ministry of Education to ensure schools put in place health protocols that will ensure students are not exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19.
THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION says its decision is based on recent consultation with the health authorities, that classes for sixth and twelfth graders will resume so that students can complete the 2019/2020 school year to be prepared for the new academic year 2020/2021. The admittance of students into physical school will be implemented in phases with 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th graders beginning and to be followed by 10th and 11th graders, the Ministry said.
MOE ALSO ANNOUNCED that early childhood education level to 5th grade will not be enrolled in physical activities to complete the 2019/2020 academic year as more review is conducted to adequately plan for the opening of the ECE level for the next academic year.
WE ARE COGNIZANT of the significance of providing the space for these students to complete their academic activities for the year albeit very wary of the possible public health ramifications if care is not taken.
WE SAY THIS BECAUSE we have seen the flouting of the health protocols at schools since 12 graders resumed classes about a month ago to prepare for the West Africa regional exams. Many public schools across the country have decried the lack of COVID-19 supplies like nose masks, soap, and disinfectants.
WE THINK ensuring that students follow all the preventive measures while in school is important to curbing the spread of the virus. But with many schools across the country already complaining about the lack of materials to enhance the adherence to the preventive measures, it shows that the Ministry is slacking in its support to schools during the pandemic.
WHAT WILL it cost the government to purchase thermometer for every public schools in the country? Is it that very expensive for the Ministry of Health to supply schools with powder soap and disinfectant? Where are one million face masks that were reportedly produced in the country? Why are schools not being supplied with these masks? These are important responsibilities that the government must effectuate to ensure students are protected against the virus. We cannot continue to be lackadaisical in dealing with this pandemic. Every public health response must be implemented with rigor and consistency.
NOW, WITH 6TH and 11th graders preparing to add to the population at schools, adherence to the social distancing rule must be carefully monitored. Allowing students to flout the protocol will be very detrimental. A single case would create a chain of infections that would make contact tracing very complicated and drain the already meager resources.
BESIDE THE CONCERNS about putting a strain on the resources, there is a looming fear of retrogressing the minimum gains already made against this pandemic and plunging the country into another complicated stage of this global health emergency that have also seen economic activities disrupted.
THEREFORE, we are very worried about allowing more students back to school. However, now that it is imminent, the Ministry of Education must do the needful by ensuring that health protocols are followed, by supplying schools are with anti-COVID-19 materials to promote the enforcement of the preventive measures at schools.