Statement by Minister of Education, Hon. Agnes Nyalonje, on Re-Opening of Schools, Colleges, Universities and International Schools on 27 August, 2020 in Lilongwe

I have called for this press briefing to announce to the nation that Schools, Colleges, Universities and International Schools will re-open on 7th Sept 2020

INTRODUCTION

As you are all aware, education institutions were closed on 23rd March, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID 19 has put education in Malawi and the world over in disarray. We however realise that there is need to continue educating and preparing the human capital needs of the country.

  • The Ministry of Education (MoE) noted that by the time schools were being closed, most learning institutions had completed their teaching timetable and were only waiting for end of term examinations or official closing.
  • In his weekly Presidential Address of 15th August, His Excellency Dr Lazarus Chakwera provided the direction to re-open schools early September 2020 upon assessment of readiness and compliance with stipulated COVID-19 prevention measures.
  • MoE developed and provided guidelines for re-opening of schools, colleges and universities; based on a balance between the right to education and the right to life
  • The Ministry has also developed a checklist that will be used to assess schools’ readiness for opening.
  • The checklist will be used for internal assessment by the school and external assessment that will be done by the Ministry.

Some of the issues contained in the guidelines include:

  1. Disinfecting schools where necessary following National Disinfection Guidelines. These guidelines are already available in all districts;
  2. All schools to ensure that hand washing facilities are available and that handwashing is enforced;
  3. The school administration, led by the head teacher, should engage all stakeholders to take part in the COVID-19 preventive measures for their schools;
  4. All teachers should be orientated on remedial education strategies; health and hygiene education; and psychosocial support for learners; and
  5. All learners, students and teachers should always put on masks with learners aged 6 - 11 using masks under strictest supervision.

Copies of the guidelines were circulated to all learning institutions and can be found on our website; www.education.gov.mw and will also be made available to the media.

CALENDAR FOR REOPENING

The Ministry has adopted a phased approach to reopening of schools with priority given to Examination classes.

I have therefore directed that learning institutions be re-opened in the following chronological order:

Monday, 7th September, 2020

  • Standard 8;
  • Form 4;
  • Initial Primary Teacher Education (IPTE)15 cohort to complete registration processes for examinations;
  • Final Year Students at colleges, universities and examination classes for all schools that offer International curriculum;

Sunday, 20th September, 2020

  • Initial Primary Teacher Education (IPTE)14 to report to colleges on 20th September;

Phased Re-Opening of Colleges, Universities and International Schools

  • Colleges, universities and schools that offer International curriculum will be allowed to take the second phase of students after three weeks from the day of re-opening (week beginning 28th September, 2020;
    • The staggering of re-opening will be determined on case by case basis in consultation with the Ministry.
  • Since colleges and universities are at different stages, each institution will have to decide which group will have to go first in consultation with the Ministry;

Phased Re-Opening of Primary, Secondary and Teacher Training Colleges

I further direct that Primary, Secondary and Teacher Training Colleges re-open for the second phase as follows:

Monday, 12th October, 2020

  • Standards 5-7;
  • Forms 1-3;
  • Standards 1- 4 with reduced contact time as classes will be alternating to reduce congestion; and
  • Initial Primary Teacher Education (IPTE 15) to continue with their teaching practice

The Ministry has revised the academic calendar to be followed by all schools as follows:

2019/2020 Bridging Academic Calendar

TERM           OPENING          CLOSING     TOTAL WEEKS       DURATION OF HOLIDAYS
    3     7th Sept 2020     18th Dec 2020                    15             2 Weeks

ASSESSMENT OF LEARNERS Assessment for term 2 work will dwell largely on continuous assessment which was done before school closure.

Remediation will be emphasised to support learners to catch up.

  • Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations (PSLCE) will be administered between 30th September and 2nd October, 2020;
  • Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) will be administered between 22nd October and 30th November, 2020

The Malawi National Examinations Board (MANEB) will release the detailed examination calendar in due course.

2021 Academic Calendar

I have also directed that a catch-up calendar for 2021 be followed as follows:

TERM   

     OPENING

     CLOSING

    TOTAL WEEKS

   DURATION OF HOLIDAYS

    1

    4th Jan 2021  

26th Mar 2021

    12

        2 Weeks

    2

   12th Apr 2021

2nd Jul, 2021  

    12

        2 Weeks

    3

   19th Jul 2021

8th Oct 2021   

12 (Total Learning period,

36 Weeks (180 Days)

        2 Weeks

2021/2022 Academic Calendar

TERM    

   OPENING

    CLOSING

   TOTAL WEEKS  

DURATION OF HOLIDAYS

   1

18 Oct 2021 

  23 Dec 2021 

          10

        2 Weeks

   2

3 Jan 2022 

  11 Mar 2022 

          10

        2 Weeks

   3

27 Mar 2022 

  3 Jun 2022 

          10

        2 Weeks

PREPARATIONS FOR REOPENING

My Ministry has undertaken a number of measures in preparation for the reopening of schools as outlined below:

  • Developed an assessment tool which will be used to determine school readiness for reopening;
    • Scholl assessments starts Monday, 31st August, 2020 across the country
  • Training of personnel, students and communities on the regulations and safe, protective and hygiene practices.
  • Resourcing of education institutions with the necessary safety, protective and hygiene materials and finances;
    • Resources have been channeled direct to zonal accounts with Primary Education Advisors (PEAs) overseeing and expediting the process.
  • Community participation through sensitisation and involvement of School Management Committees, Mother Groups, Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs) and Board of Governors.
    • Communities are involved in making of masks and senstisation as well as making of bylaws by chiefs.
    • Providing water where necessary for handwashing.

Specific Steps Taken in Preparation for Reopening

1.   Developed guidelines

  • The ministry has developed guidelines to be used by:
    • Early Childhood Development Centres;
    • Primary, Secondary, Teacher Training Colleges;
    • Colleges and universities;
  • The guidelines have been disseminated to all schools, colleges and universities.

2.   The Ministry is using a cascade model to train all structures up to school level and community level.

  • Division Trainer of Trainers have been trained and they will be rolling out the trainings from next week to school level where they will train all stakeholders at district, cluster and school level.
  • All Directors of Education Youth and Sports and Chief Education Officers in all the 34 councils have been trained.
  • 541 Primary Education Advisors have been oriented on the COVID19 guidelines.
  • A team of Desk Officers has been constituted at district level and have all been trained in the following areas;
    • COVID-19 guidelines;
    • COVID-19 preventive measures;
    • Primary School Improvement Plans guidelines;
    • Support of learners and students with various forms of disabilities;
    • Preventive measures and mask making; and
    • Remediation
  • More trainings have been planned for the following:
    • Primary school teachers,
    • School Management Committees (SMC),
    • Parents Teacher Association (PTA),
    • Mother Groups,
    • Traditional Leaders,
    • Community members,
    • Faith Leaders; and
    • Youth representatives.

The trainings have started today, 27th August, 2020 and will run up to 3rd September, 2020 in their respective schools.

  • The ministry has included private schools teachers in the trainings;
  • Community sensitization will be conducted soon after the training of teachers at school level from 4th September, 2020. The community will be sensitized on:
    • COVID-19 Preventive measures;
    • Mask making; and
    • Back to school Campaign.
  • The Ministry is conducting Consultative meetings with teachers through Directorate of Inspection on reopening of schools starting from 27th August, 2020.
  • Mapping of Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) to schools has already been done. These will help in case identification and management.

3.   Resources

  • Funds to support the schools have been transferred to zonal accounts (a total of MK 2, 101, 584, 355 from the COVID Global Partnership for Education Funds)
  • These funds will be used to support the following
    • Training;
    • Mask making;
    • Printing and distribution of guidelines;
    • Purchase of Buckets/basins and soap; and
    • Procurement of radios for vulnerable children and suggestion boxes.
  • Special attention has been given to special Needs Education (SNE). Radios and Tablets have been purchased to aid the learners.

4.   Colleges and Universities preparation

  • Colleges and universities are very prepared for re-opening and assessments are to follow

5.   Messages and awareness campaigns

  • Back to school messages are being developed by the Ministry in collaboration with the Public Communication Cluster for the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19

NOTE:

In between phasing in of cohorts, all Schools, Colleges and Universities should be disinfected.

Speech by
Author
Agnes Nyalonje
Minister of Education
Agnes
UN entities involved in this initiative
UNESCO
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNICEF
United Nations Children’s Fund
WHO
World Health Organization