MASERU – Teacher’s unions in Lesotho have pleaded with the government to offer special training for teachers in order to enable them to identify and deal with COVID-19 suspects by the time schools reopen. While the country remains free from the coronavirus pandemic, all non-essential services in the country including schools, have been put on hold through a nationwide lockdown that started on March 29.
The lockdown, which was supposed to end on April 21 has since been extended by two weeks and will now end on May 5. The Examination Council of Lesotho (ECOL), on the other hand, has also postponed the LGCSE May and June examinations until further notice. Both Junior Certificates (JC) and LGCSE exam fees payments have also been rescheduled.
It is during this period that teachers’ unions recommend the need for a training programme to prepare for the difficult times ahead. The Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) said in an interview with Public Eye yesterday that preparations, according to them, should start at schools with teachers and students. LTTU explained that decisions taken during this difficult and frustrating period require a clear policy framework going forward.
“A good decision has been reached that schools be closed. We cannot dispute that because it is difficult to maintain social distancing at schools. Furthermore, many schools could not adhere to the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations that gathering of people should not be more than 50.”
“This was difficult for many schools where you find that one class is already made up of more than 50 students. So now our recommendation is that all the testing and training in preparation for the disease should start with teachers and students. These will allow us to easily identify suspects and or cases by the time schools reopen,” said LTTU Secretary General ’Mapitso Molai in an interview with Public Eye yesterday.
Molai, however, ruled out the idea that schools could be opened during the winter period to recover from the time that is currently being lost in the school calendar. She said it would be impossible as the winter period comes with a number of challenges for many schools in the country.
“For instance, many schools are struggling with access to water, some walk long distances to and from school while for others there are not enough classrooms. That means it would be difficult not only for teachers but also for students to fully focus on studies during this period,” she added. She revealed that they had discussions with government through Ministry of Education and Training (MET) and therefore remains confident their concerns will be addressed.