The article below was printed in the Daily News (Tanzania) on June 29th, the same day that schools reopened in the East African nation. The photos are courtesy of Toa’s own Emmanuel Mnubi.
Tanzania: All Smiles As Students Return to Schools
Dar es Salaam – Hundreds of thousands of pupils and students returned to school across the country on Monday after a more than three-month delay caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
The decision to reopen schools was made after it was declared safe by the government for children to go back to school.
For most, the return to school was an important and a welcome step. It was all smiles for the majority as the life during the closure proved difficult for parents and children alike.
A survey by the Daily News on Monday witnessed huge turnout of both pupils and students reporting to public and private schools in different regions countrywide.
In some schools, students lined up for temperature checks and were given sanitizers to wash their hands as they entered school premises.
“We are pleased to see our children back to school…. We are doing everything to help ensure students, teachers, and other staff are safe, and communities are confident in sending their students back to school,” said a teacher at Tungi Secondary School in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam, who preferred anonymity.
In Kilimanjaro, Toa staff are also taking precautionary measures against the virus
“We know that water and hygiene facilities are a crucial part of schools reopening safely and we kept all these in place…. We have arranged water buckets and soaps around the school premises for students to easily wash their hands,” he said.
At Bunge and Olympio Primary Schools, pupils were seen keenly observing orders from teachers.
Some pupils across the busiest city of Dar es Salaam were spotted struggling to catch transports to and from their schools, much to the concern of parents.
Muhenga Mwakyoma, a resident of Dar es Salaam, expressed his concern of difficulties to access transport for the returning students, leaving many stranded on bus stops and getting late to school.
“The level seat directive on commuter busses has wreaked havoc in Dar es Salaam streets. Students have failed to get transportation to their respective schools on time, some of them couldn’t make it at all,” he said.
A parent, Edom Mapunda, is impressed by the government’s decision to reopen schools but said school administrators should always work to improve hygiene measures, including educating the children on observing hand washing, respiratory etiquette (coughing and sneezing into the elbow), physical distancing measures, and cleaning procedures for facilities and safe food preparation practices.
He said all staff and teachers should also be trained on physical distancing and school hygiene practices.
In a survey conducted in some primary and secondary schools at Kitunda and Kivule Wards in Ilala, teachers stated that physical distancing was a challenge due to shortage of classrooms to accommodate students/pupils.
“We have few classrooms and that is a challenge especially this time when we need to observe social distancing in classrooms,” said the headmaster of Kitunda Secondary School.
In Sumbawanga Municipality, this paper visited several public secondary schools including Kizwitwe, Mazwi, Sumbawanga, and Mafulala as well as Jangwani and Kiwelu Primary Schools.
It was witnessed that all of them have taken effective measures to protect students and their teachers against the novel virus Covid-19 infections, by putting in place protective equipment.
A school teacher at privately-run Moonlight Academy, Mr. Adam Songoro, told this paper exclusively that the facility has taken serious precautionary measures to protect both pupils and teaching staff.
“The response is positive…. Parents have been instructed to provide at least two face masks for children above eight years old but those with ailments have been instructed not to wear them,” he said.
As an NGO working in the public sector, Toa does not have the authority to enforce mask-wearing amongst our pupils, but we have instructed our tutors to wear masks and provided them with several washable versions.
In Nkasi District, the Milundikwa High School headmaster, Mr. Vinje Ignas Masala, told the Daily News on the phone that apart from emphasizing on precautionary measures to be taken at the facility in a move to contain pandemic, students are undergoing body temperature screening before they are admitted.
In Bukoba Municipality, most primary schools equally observed necessary precautions against Covid-19.
A spot survey made around six primary schools found most of them fitted with necessary equipment including sanitizers, while each pupil had a face mask. The schools include Rumuli, Buyekera, Zamzam, Tumaini, Kashai, and Rwamishenye.
Julieth Mbibazohi (26) from Nyakyanyasi Ward could not hide her joy.
“We thank President Magufuli for his decision to open the schools. We have been anxiously waiting for the decision,” she said.
Edson Kabakama (45) from Kashai Ward, in Bukoba Rural District said the decision was timely and would enable the students to continue with their studies.
Dissolving the 11th Parliament in Dodoma on June 16th this year, President John Magufuli had ordered all schools in the country to be reopened yesterday after three months of closure due to the novel coronavirus.
The announcement by President Magufuli made Tanzania the first country in East Africa to reopen schools.
The President said the decision was taken as the number of coronavirus infections “drastically dropped.”
On June 1st this year, universities in the country resumed educational activities with hygiene rules put in place by the Ministry.
Prior to the reopening, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology had urged schools to strictly observe prevention and protection guidelines for Covid-19.