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Education Ministry blamed for Covid cases at schools

By Buddhika Samaraweera

Teachers’ trade unions have accused the Ministry of Education and other relevant authorities of not having prepared a programme to properly implement the Covid-19-related health guidelines in schools, claiming that as a result, teachers and students in nearly 1,000 schools have been reported to be infected with Covid-19.

Speaking to The Morning, Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) President Priyantha Fernando charged that the authorities, including the Ministry of Education, have not prepared a proper programme to implement the Covid-19-related health guidelines in schools.

“Health guidelines are not being implemented properly in schools. Given this issue, Covid-19-infected teachers or students have been reported from nearly 25% of schools islandwide. Several classrooms have been closed in certain schools due to infections. However, even when a student in a class is identified as infected with Covid-19, no programme is there at least to quarantine the teacher in charge of that class,” alleged Fernando.

He said the situation was “very dangerous” and that the entire school system would have to be shut down if a proper programme is not put in place as soon as possible.

Attempts to contact Minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena and Ministry of Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera to inquire about CTU’s allegations proved futile.

Health experts have recently warned that schools will have to be closed once again if the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases reported in the country is not brought under control.

Addressing a media briefing last week, Dr. Deepal Perera of the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children (LRH), Colombo stated: “Currently, there is an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across the country. Therefore, Covid-19 infections are also more prevalent among children and this may lead to a closure of schools again.”

He added that in such a situation, adults should work to reduce the spread of Covid-19. “As adults, we are the ones who carry Covid-19 to children, so adults need to follow health guidelines to control the disease,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Health Communication Director and Deputy Director General of Public Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath last week told the media that there have been reports of schoolchildren and school staff being infected with Covid-19 in several provinces. He added that if the number of such cases increased further, schools would have to be closed first.

Schools islandwide had been closed for several months due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation and the lockdown status imposed in the country. However, the Ministry of Education took steps to reopen schools in a few stages after the Government decided to remove the lockdown on 1 October 2021.