Our Statements And Positions Publication
The decision to reopen schools is a matter of "When" because whether sooner or later, there'll be a time that schools must reopen. What's germane now is preparations - preparations for students and staff safety, and preparations for learning loss recovery. These decisions can't be made without the inputs of the key implementors of the plans - teachers. They should be sticking out their necks to see what plans their employer (GES) seeks to make to reopen schools and if they are feasible.
I have read the letter by the teacher unions, and what they did was to outline eloquently, reasons why schools shouldn't open. I'm not sure GES' letter is asking them whether it's safe to open schools, neither did it imply schools are reopening immediately the ban is lifted. The unions should see it as an invitation to be part of a process in determining when it's reasonable to open schools and what safety measures must be taken.
For any education commentator, the idea of reopening schools is not one that one can easily and outrightly dismiss because while being aware of the health risk of the learners and teachers, you're also looking at the implications of the break:
1. The break is creating learning loss that's worsening the learning gap, which unavoidably will widen further the achievement gap between the haves and have-nots children with future socio-economic implications.
2. When disadvantaged children stay out of school for long, they are less likely to return.
3. Some children, owing to the long stay at home, are being exploited - sexually and labour-wise.
4. For some children, not seeing their peers for a time now is taking a toll on their social and emotional health.
5. School is the place some children receive daily meals.
These implications of a protracted covid-break should see all stakeholders of education closely working together to find common ground to get education running at an agreeable time. The unions should engage GES and even 'own' the planning process because they are on the ground and know plans that are workable and not. And most critical is the unions issuing a caveat that without GES meeting whatever safety protocols they'll establish, they are not compromising the safety of their members and students.
In brief, the preparations for reopening of schools - whether sooner or later - start NOW.
By: Divine Kpe, Fellow, Africa Education Watch