Lusaka - Authorities in Zambia are still assessing new coronavirus infection trends before deciding on when to reopen schools.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the government this week said exam classes would resume in September after COVID-19 infections leveled off and recoveries rose.
Most African countries have kept schools closed for the better part of the year and the United Nations has recently said authorities must find safe and sustainable ways to get learners back into classrooms across the world.
Zambia closed schools on March 20 and re-opened on June 29 for examination classes only.
The country’s Secretary for General Education, Dr Jobbicks Kalumba, this week said the government was ready to resume classes for all learners as soon as the Health Ministry gave the green light.
“Our desire is that schools should re-open to all classes, even tomorrow, once the Ministry of Health clears us.
“We cannot determine when the coronaviruss will end. So far, none of the pupils in the examination classes has died from the pandemic because we believe in God,” he said.
Dr Kalumba assured parents and guardians that the ministry had competent staff and pupils would be exam-ready via a rigorous learning programme to cover for lost time.
Health Ministry spokesperson Dr Abel Kabalo told The Southern Timesthe government was determined to create a safe learning environment.
And National Action for Quality Education of Zambia executive director Mr Aaron Chansa said the state must move quickly so that children were not further disadvantaged by continued lack of regular schooling.
“Government must decide quickly and find lasting solutions. If schools do not re-open now, it will mean those in non examination classes will repeat their grades while those aspiring to go into new grades will remain static as there will not be space for them (to advance to the next class).”
Zambia had recorded more than 12,523 cumulative COVID-19 cases with a 90 percent recovery rate.
As of September 3, there had been more than 280 deaths.
UN Secretary-General Dr António Gutierrez, in a policy brief co-issued with the Save Our Future campaign, recently expressed concerned over the prolonged closure of schools, noting that online learning had not reached many children because of the costs involved.
“Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,” said Dr Gutierrez.
“The knock-on effects on child nutrition, child marriage, and gender equality, among others, are deeply concerning.”
Many children in low-income countries get supplementary nutrition at school.