Expert urge caution over reopening schools in Malawi

An infectious disease expert has urged great caution over the reopening of schools in Malawi in the face of coronavirus surge, saying children could be as infectious as adults.

Epidemiologist Titus Divala: Urging a more cautious approach

Schools have been closed in Malawi since March 23.

But on Saturday President Lazarus Chakwera in his national address said schools that will meet set Covid-19 requirements will open early September.

He said guidelines have already been developed on what schools need to do to reopen safely.

Said Chakwera “In fact, we will start assessing the readiness of each school this coming week so that the schools that meet our safety standards can reopen in early September.”

But epidemiologist Titus Divala urges government to maintain a cautionary approach, saying re-opening of schools should be informed by evidence that benefits outweigh harm.

Divala said there should be steps to deal with the impact of social distancing in the classroom.

“There must be open spaces in classrooms and communities should be engaged adequately and given roles to support public health measurers in schools,” said the infectious disease expert.

Divala said there are several requirements and recommendations for limiting and monitoring the risk of Covid-19 transmission in schools: masks required for children, desks spaced, and regular hand-washing, among others.

The epidemiologist caution comes at the time of an uptick in virus pandemic cases.

He said schools could spark community outbreaks. Most countries were quick to order school closures as the virus spread, and research on infection within schools and between children and adults is still in early stages.

The health expert  said there are too many uncertainties and variables for back-to-school to be back-to-normal.

“The unfortunate thing that will happen is that once we reopen the number of cases may increase again, the number of deaths may increase again. So what will happen is that now there will be a huge burden on an innocent sector that has single-handedly fought the epidemic from the beginning, health sector,”  he said.

Meanwhile, Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) has demanded government to offer teachers risk allowances in the wake of Covid-19 if the schools were to open.

“We want risk allowances just like healthcare workers and also for government to provide us with personal protective equipment (PPE),” said Charles Kumchenga the TUM secretary general.

He said the demand of risk allowance and PPEs were presented during a meeting with the Ministry of Education’s Task Force on re-opening of schools in April this year, three months before Chakwera’s announcement on Saturday.

Kumchenga said they believe the Tonse Alliance led administration is a listening government and that it will respond to them positively.

Meanwhile, child marriage has almost doubled in parts of Malawi; the situation has worsened dramatically as a result of the school closures and rise in poverty linked to the coronavirus outbreak.

Amos Zaindi, country director of Care International in Malawi, said: “Before Covid-19, Malawi had a high rate of child marriage. With schools closed and increased poverty, the situation is getting worse.”

The number of people found with Covid-19 virus in Malawi has passed the 5 000 mark and 157 deaths.

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laws
laws
1 month ago

If the Teachers themselves are failing to maintain the precautionary measures then what more with the children!!
The other thing is you have gazetted that people should be in tens,how is this going to conform?we are at crossroad ndithu

Mofolo
Mofolo
1 month ago

Open the damn country. Malawi is in a relatively Corona virus stable position than most of the countries if we compare fatalities and hospital admissions. Kugona pakati mkuyambilila open the country for business side by side with increased mask use, testing and washing of hands. Let’s move on

Noxy
1 month ago

Very important advice from the learned man,the government must indeed open school with cautious mind or else Malawi can be an epicentre of covid19.Government must put everything regarding covid19 preventive measures in place before opening any school.Those that won’t adhere to the measures must be closed forthwith.We shouldn’t risk ourselves just because we want to educate our children life is more precious than anything else.

Wiseup
Wiseup
1 month ago
Reply to  Noxy

Those who are afraid for their children, let their children stay at home and those who want their children to learn, let them go to school OSAMPHWANYIRANA UFULU WA MA PHUNZIRO. Inu ana anu akuphunzira on line koma wina wa ku LEA or Full Primary and most private schools are not learning and ambiri akwatiwa ndi ku kwatira. What future generation are we creating? Life has to go on. This is not the first time the world has experienced a “pandemic” and life has never stopped. Another thing, is the covid virus being kept at schools? Why is everybody else… Read more »

Wiseup
Wiseup
1 month ago
Reply to  Noxy

And inu mumakhala muma suburb maybe you are the ones at risk. Tapitani muma townshipmu muone kuti moyo uli bwanji. They are living a life precovid and they are not sick.

Medson
Medson
1 month ago

TUM u are shameless organization
How many months ur teachers have been eating our taxes without working?
Hence government no cut from ur teachers salaries.
Today u are showing up as if pay never made before.
Allowance for what? What about our children should also demanding allowances?
Think twice.

Bamusi
1 month ago

Kodi ma scientists tilibe kwathu kuno? Kodi tikuphunzira Kuba basi? Open school za science basi, zoona kulephera ndikupanga tooth pick? My foot my Malawi.

Msadane
Msadane
1 month ago

I find the comments ascribed to Dr Divala interesting in the sense that they restate the obvious, repeat the same message the president alluded to, rather than offer expert advice on what, for example, should be done. Surely, when we speak as experts, we must show that by the content we profer. Telling government to be cautious (already stated in the president’s speech) because of reasons the same government has already provided is perhaps not the mark of an expert. I have read similar approaches on other issues where for example “a governance Analyst raps government”, “top lawyer blands government… Read more »

Mkanda Gudu
Mkanda Gudu
1 month ago
Reply to  Msadane

@ Msadane, you are very right. Some of these so called experts are not experts as but rather town cryers who can not offer anything tangible. Malawi being Malawi that runs short of experts, tend to tag anyone making noise such as Divala as experts. They really need to provide an alternative to show how they know and indeed being experts. I am not even sure of this Divala chap is an infectious disease expert…

Sidos
Sidos
1 month ago

Masks and social distancing?

You can’t social distance with children.

They are children.

Let’s be realistic.

Malawi walero
Malawi walero
1 month ago

Just open schools corona is here to stay.

Wiseup
Wiseup
1 month ago
Reply to  Malawi walero

“Government to maintain a cautionary approach …..” Koma mwaona ana mmene akukhalira mu ma locationmu? Mu Ndirande, Mbayani, Bangwe, Ntandile, biwi, Zolozolo, Katoto, Genda etc za mu nsika ndiye ndizosayamba and most people mu nsika do not care about masks or social distancing. Mwamvako kuti kumeneko anthu are dropping dead or akugwidwa ndi kolona? Mukakhala mu zipatalamu ndiye osanena. Queens/KCH/Mzuzu Central siunyinji wake. Mwanvako kuti ma guardian agwidwa ndi rona. Anthunu ingonenani mwadya za World Health Organisation ndiye mukupanga create ma situation oti they are not even there. Mukupangitsa anthu omwe sanadye nawo ndalamazo kuti moyo wawo uyime inu mukusangalala… Read more »

Wils
Wils
1 month ago
Reply to  Malawi walero

Just open up schools, corona virus has come to stay’ Already anawo ali more exposed to the virus in their communities, visit communities and see what is happening to those children, they are everywhere, in churches, markets, football etc but you deny them education, shame. The President must be careful with these soc called experts, they will just mislead him, some have personal interest in this pandemic, they are cashing out. we should respond to covid 19 holistically, not just focusing on one area, until when??

Man
Man
1 month ago
Reply to  Wils

I like this type of thinking people should be able to exercise critical analysis

Samuel
Samuel
1 month ago
Reply to  Malawi walero

Samuel

Samuel
Samuel
1 month ago
Reply to  Malawi walero

Fact open schools please

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