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OUR POSITION, CONVICTIONS REMAIN UNCHANGED - SNAT

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MBABANE - “Our position remains unchanged.”

These were the words of Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General, Sikelela Dlamini, following Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini’s announcement of the reopening of Form III and Grade VII classes with effect from Monday August 24, 2020 and September 1, 2020, respectively. 

According to Sikelela, their position as an organisation remained unchanged.

“You will recall that we currently have a pending court case, where we are challenging the reopening of schools because we believe this was done hastily without adhering to all the requirements needed for schools to operate smoothly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an organisation, our position and convictions remain unchanged,” he said.

Sikelela said all along, teachers were probably coping because it was only the Form V pupils who were attending classes, but now that government had announced the reopening of more classes, the situation would be challenging.

Challenge 

The first challenge he pointed out was that some schools had small classrooms, which would make it difficult to adhere to social distancing.

“We are increasing chances of having more COVID-19 cases, not to mention the stress that will be experienced by teachers as a result of inadequate resources such as running water and sanitisers,” he said.

He said the proper running of schools would also be compromised, as teachers would be forced to use one thermal scanner to check temperatures of pupils in schools that had a large number of pupils, resulting in the possible delay of starting lessons.

Sikelela said the chances of transmission of the virus would also increase as pupils would be changing classes in between subjects, since there would be a large number of pupils in attendance. 

He opined that the situation would be even more challenging for teachers in primary schools due to the large numbers of pupils and that most of the schools were located in the rural areas.

“It is for that reason government should have regarded the year 2020 as a gap year and not reopen schools, so that between now and the end of the year, proper preparations for the reopening of schools for next year January are done,” he explained.  

He said this was also because the COVID-19 pandemic would not subside anytime soon as it could last for a period of more than two years, so by having a gap year, government would have adequate time to prepare for the reopening of schools next year.  

Preparing 

“This would ensure that government does not do a shoddy job in preparing for the reopening of schools,” he said.     

Sikelela said it was during the reopening of the other grades where government would discover that it had done absolutely nothing in terms of preparedness.   “I don’t want to lie; government did pay some of the high schools a visit, to check their level of preparedness, but compliance is not something that happens in one instance, which is why government needed to ensure continuity and sustenance on the standards being upheld in the different schools going forward,” he said. He said the fact that government once paid the high schools a visit and found that they were prepared, did not mean that preparedness was permanent, since they used water and sanitisers among other things, which ran out.

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Should the minister of Health, PS and director of health services be relieved of their duties for failing to solve the problems engulfing the public health sector?