Closed for more than half the school year, the government has further relaxed restrictions to allow the reopening of schools amid the spread of COVID-19 across the country, leaving many parents in limbo.
The Ministry of Education has proposed tentative schedules to reopen schools. According to Getahun Mekuria (PhD), the Minister of Education, universities, primary and secondary education will resume in weeks. For instance, regional states and rural administrations advised reopening schools on October 19, 2020, and onwards, while Schools in Addis Ababa have recommended reopening on November 30, 2020.
However, with the growing number of new cases and mortality, many parents fear sending their kids to schools.
Parents expressed their frustration over the lack of information on how schools could adhere to the safety measures. Concerns on physical distancing, wearing a mask, maintain hygiene and sanitary conditions have circulated on social media platforms. Many parents have created social media groups, to exchange views and concerns about schools and education matters.
Hargua Mamo, director of public relations with the Ministry of Education, told The Reporter that such concerns are valid. However, there are several parents equally concerned about the potential impacts their kids might encounter, due to the prolonged closure of schools. She said scores of parents have also demanded for schools reopen.
Responding to claims made by parents about lack of consultations, the director said the ministry has met with both parents’ and teachers’ representative groups. She added that it follows and monitors, whether safety standards and requirements are implemented in schools. Failing to meet safety measures will not be tolerated, she stressed.
Efforts to teach students by remote learning and homeschooling practices have fetched little outcomes for many countries, and Ethiopia is no different. The 2020 Human Capital report by the World Bank Group indicated that three out of ten children have received remote learning or digitalized education. The report details that these practices have yielded in lower outreach in Ethiopia when compared to Kenya, where six out of ten children and in Uzbekistan, seven out of ten children have been able to continue education through remote learning.
Currently, some 25 million children are forced to stay at home. In addition to that, the UN has reported that 20,000 more refugee children are out of school. However, the schools which have remained closed in the early stages of the COVID-19 transmissions are resuming education, as the total COVID-19 cases surpass 70,000.