Reopening of schools delayed

The return of grade 11 and 12 learners to class is voluntary.

20 July 2020 | Education

Tuilika Andreas; NANSO; “The decision was abrupt and may not make provision for all the essential measures …”

Walvis Bay • [email protected]

The opening of schools in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis was delayed with two days.

The ministry of education made the announcement on Sunday evening, two days after an initial announcement that grade 11 and 12’s would return to school in the three towns.

Private schools in the three towns that indicated they are ready to reopen, are allowed to do so, provided that parental consent is obtained.

Pro-Ed Academy was one of the schools in Swakopmund that reopened on Monday, while the International School of Walvis Bay as well as Walvis Bay Private High School also re-opened in the harbour town.

Pro-Ed Academy head girl Wilmé Els, said she has mixed feelings about the re-opening of schools.

“It’s great to be back. We have only two weeks until our examinations start and this is extremely stressful.”

The education ministry said that after consultations with the Erongo regional governor, the Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU) and the Erongo education directorate, it was decided to delay the resumption of face-to-face classes.

“It has been collectively agreed that the re-opening of schools for grade 11 and 12 learners in the three towns be delayed for 20 – 21 July 2020 to provide teachers, learners and parents sufficient time for logistical arrangements, be it at school or from home.”

The way forward

In the next two days, parents will be required to indicate whether they would prefer to make use of the Learning From Home delivery model, while the directorate of education, arts and culture will continue to engage and facilitate strategies on teaching and modalities seeing that many concerns were raised in the Walvis Bay municipal area.

The ministry added that it will explore the option of arranging transport for the learners to and from schools and central pick up points in Kuisebmund to assist with safe transportation.

Further modalities on teaching and learning will include possible hostel accommodation for learners and the strict adherence to health and safety protocols at all schools.

It was also explained that learners who might opt for Learning From Home should be assisted properly by their respective subject teachers through visual/voice recorded lessons that clearly explain the required basic competencies, new concepts and assessment related activities.

School-based assessment related preparation should be done as required to ensure that the learners are not disadvantaged.

Exams looming

Sanet Steenkamp, the executive director of the ministry of education said that all grade 11 and 12 learners are registered to take their final examinations in the National Senior Secondary Certificate Ordinary and Higher Level (NSSCO/H) at the end of this year.

“It is crucial that all stakeholders (the ministry of education, Erongo regional council, ministry of health and social services, unions, community members, parents, teachers and learners) contribute to ensure that the class of 2020 receives full support in all the required areas to make a success of their final year of formal schooling.”

Steenkamp said that the ministry acknowledges that the road ahead might not be easy and may not be embraced by all.

“We wish to reassure the nation that the safety of teachers and learners and all employees is paramount in all the decisions that are made.”

Difficult situation

Juandro van Rooi, a grade 12 learner at De Duine Secondary School, said it was high time for schools to re-open.

“The back and forth decisions is making things tougher and the number of [Covid] cases are increasing. We have to accept that Covid-19 is the new normal. Exams are around the corner, and we already have a month’s disadvantage compared to rest of the country. All I can do is prepare myself for the upcoming exams. Some of the content I don’t understand at all, but I am trying my best to prepare myself.”

Naomi Haikera, a grade 12 learner at Duinesig High School in Kuisebmond also had mixed feelings.

“I don’t have a problem to go back to school. However, the majority of learners are not in the right state of mind to write exams in the next six weeks. I want to go back but my mom is not comfortable with it. I feel our exams can be delayed so that we can catch up and finish the necessary work.”

According to Tuilika Andreas, chairperson of the NANSO Erongo regional executive committee, learners in Walvis Bay were not happy with the sudden announcement that they will be returning to school on Friday.

“The decision came out of the blue and may not make provision for all the essential measures that need to be put in place. We stand for the extension of examinations for particularly grades 11 and 12 in the affected three towns, even if this means exams can only take place in January. Learners should be granted an opportunity to perform to the best of their abilities and apply to universities as well. The mental health of our constituents is at stake, therefore we should all come together to encourage and urge them to remain steadfast.”