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LOBAMBA – Once again, government has been labelled as not being ready to reopen schools and should postpone the proposed opening date, which is July 6, 2020.

This was the view of a majority of MPs who debated the Minister of Education and Training, Lady Mabuza’s report on the schools’ reopening yesterday in the House of Assembly.

The MPs were of the view that this was not practical, particularly because the E56 million budget was not even available at present.
First to debate the issue was Maphalaleni MP Mabulala Maseko, who called for the ministry to exempt the Grade VIIs and Form IIIs from writing the examinations because they were controlled in Eswatini.

Nkwene MP Vulimpompi Nhleko said it was clear that government was testing the strength of the COVID-19 with the lives of the pupils.


He said he had consulted with the head teacher of Mkhondvo High School, who said the ministry had informed them that they could not reopen schools without fulfilling certain requirements which needed money.
He said the school did not have the money to meet all the demands.
Mangcongco MP Oneboy Zikalala asked if the ministry would tour all schools before they were reopened.

The MPs there were only 11 days left before July 6 and knowing the slow pace of the government process, not everything would be in place.
“What if you reopen the schools and find a positive case, what will happen then?” wondered MP Zikalala.

The MPs also expressed concern about transport arrangements as they submitted that the pupils came from various parts of the country.
Meanwhile, Kwaluseni MP Sibusiso Dlamini suggested that under the present status quo, the ministry should consider scrapping the Grade VII certificate altogether.

“Maybe we can consider the Form IIIs and Form Vs but who in this day and age needs a Grade VII certificate to get employment?” submitted the Kwaluseni MP.
He also asked if the ministry would provide special transport for the pupils.


“As much as the minister has tabled a good report, I am against testing the waters with pupils’ lives,” he said.
Shiselweni MP Strydom Mpanza said the minister had reported that parents were expected to scan their children before they left for school and wondered if the scanners had been purchased for the families.
He further asked if pupils would be punished for failing to maintain social distancing.

“I am also curious about this E56 million budget, has it been passed and where is the money?” he asked.
Nkhaba MP Zakhele Magongo also said the ministry or government could not set the date for reopening of schools without any budget or money available.
Meanwhile, Motshane MP Robert Magongo urged his colleagues not to buy into the minister’s well written report. He said they all wanted to send their children to school, but added that the report should have been accompanied by another from the Ministry of Health, endorsing the reopening of schools.
He wondered if the ministry was ready to test all the pupils should there be an infection.

“Numbers of positive cases are now shooting up and you want us to send the children to school, I am against that,” MP Robert submitted.
Ngwempisi MP Mthandeni Dube thanked the minister for submitting a report which he said was sending their children to their graves.
He said government was not ready at all to send pupils to schools and kept repeating that the ministry was digging graves. Although the MP was asked to withdraw the graves statement, he reluctantly did so.

Instead, he submitted that the 2020 academic year should be considered a gap year.
MP Dube said all the pupils must repeat the grades they were in and the school calendar would start again next year.
“Instead you are now sending the pupils out and they will return home to the elderly whom it has been stated are the most vulnerable (to the virus),” he said.
Sithobelweni MP Bhekitje Dlamini also said government was not ready to reopen schools, particularly because of the lack of access to water needed to fight the pandemic.


He said his area had about eight high schools, which had not even been assessed, adding that they did not even have drinking water let alone water to wash hands.

The MP further said the winter was too cold and the pupils could even do a shoddy job and not wash their hands for the stipulated 20 seconds.
Gege MP Musa Kunene also submitted that the E56 million budget was still a dream. He asked what government would do if for example 10 pupils would test positive at Evelyn Barring High which had a high enrolment. “Schools were closed when the country only had three cases, but now we want to reopen them yet the figures are over 600,” he stated.

The MPs further asked if the E56 million would include school fees which goverment would assist parents with.
MP Kunene also asked the minister if they could not go back and re-engage Cambridge on the postponement of the examinations as this was a global pandemic.
Hosea MP Bacede Mabuza said government only had 11 days to fix the infrastructure in schools and provide personal protective equipment (PPEs). He said government was just not ready for July 6 and called for a review of the proposed date.
The legislators said it was interesting that as MPs they were still debating about the reopening date yet government had chosen to pronounce itself on the issue.
Meanwhile, Manzini North MP Macford Sibandze said just looking at the figures in South Africa since schools reopened, government should reconsider, especially since about 1 800 pupils in that country had tested positive.
On another note, Nkilongo MP Timothy Myeni said he supported the idea of the reopening of schools as COVID-19 was a virus that would be around for a while. He wondered if the virus continues for two more years and government continues to close schools. 

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