MASERU – Chief Education Officer Primary, Thuto Ntšekhe- Mokhehle, says the education ministry has provided the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure pupils’ safety upon return to school.
Ntšekhe-Mokhehle said the government has disbursed a staggering M15 million for the procurement of PPE. But the money comes directly from the cabinet as it was never budgeted for by the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET).
And by next week Monday, all the schools would be provided with the PPE according to the ministry’s schedule. Now it is only the Mafeteng district that has already been furnished with the PPE. Ntšekhe-Mokhehle said it became easy to distribute the PPE in the district because the National Drug Service Organisation (NDSO) which is responsible for the distribution of the PPE is in that district.
She said they have to deliver PPE for the primary schools to door. She said all the secondary schools were assisted with the PPE before Easter holidays which was left in the districts for the schools to collect.
She strongly refuted allegations that the government is unable to provide water tanks to the schools, adding that what remained a problem is that some principals refused to register with the MoET to be assisted with water tanks upon such a request.
“So when such principals see the ministry distributing the tanks to the schools that have registered, they begin to complain that they are not provided with the tanks. We have asked all the principals if they had water tanks in their schools,” she said. She said some schools in the lowlands are failing to have water because they have issues with the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO).
However, the officer said they faced a problem of unusable roads whose condition has been exacerbated by heavy rains in the past months, “these make our movement utterly impossible in some places.” Secretary General of Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Letsatsi Ntsibolane, on the other hand says it is difficult for them to do their work as teachers while the government is unable to provide them with PPE.
For this reason, they have appealed to fellow colleagues in the teaching profession to avoid exchanging of materials with students so that they could minimise chances of infections. Also, they have appealed to pupils to put on their masks at all times.
He said they usually meet with their members virtually to check on government’s progress regarding the provision of PPE at schools. “We are not satisfied with this conduct of the government,” he said. He said the government could have assisted the schools with the PPE as promised so that they could continue with their work as teachers unhindered.
Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) Secretary General, ‘Mapitso ‘Molai, shared the same sentiments with the LAT Ntsibolane that the schools are not ready to resume classes. ‘Molai said primary schools do not have the financial muscle to buy the PPE as most students are paid tuition fees by the government. So it is practically impossible for the schools to buy the PPE without assistance from the government.
She said pupils from the rural schools are the ones who would suffer the most because children could not afford the PEE as compared to their counterparts in towns. She said it is within the right of the pupils to reconvene classes because it has been long that they are not in schools. The pupils have been out of school since March 11 last year.
The other problem is that the children are many as compared to classrooms that the schools have. Her argument is that the government has to be ready to give all the necessary support to the teachers and pupils so that their schooling environment is conducive.