Student safety still a concern as PNG covid infection cases hit 333

PNG schools
Tokarara Secondary School grade 9 students Piccolly Maino (from left), Joseph Tom and Alex Lorry wash their hands before class. Image: Kennedy Bani/The National

By Aileen Kwaragu in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinean parents have been assured that everything is being done to ensure the health and safety of children in school, although the final decision to send them to class is entirely theirs.

National Capital District Education Services Secretary Sam Lora made these points when responding to concerns raised by parents about the safety of sending children to school in the middle of a covid-19 community transmission in the capital city, with nine new cases reported on Monday.

He assured parents that the schools were doing all they could to stop the spread of the covid-19.

READ MORE: PNG schools follow no-mask-no-entry rule

“We respect parents if they do not feel safe for children to attend classes,” he said.

“We have a problem with social distancing, especially overcrowding. But it is compulsory now that every individual must wear a mask.”

The national total of the covid-19 cases reached 333 on Monday, with more than 200 alone in Port Moresby.

The oldest patient is 84 and the youngest two years old.

Worried about education
Mother-of-four Sybil Suruba from Northern, whose young twins are in grade three at the Wardstrip Primary School in Waigani said she was worried about her children’s education.

Her eldest daughter is in grade 10 at Gordon Secondary and her son is in Grade Nine at Gerehu Secondary School.

“I am worried sick for my children because they have missed out on a lot of lessons during the last two lockdowns,” Suruba said.

“I hope teachers will make up for all those lessons they have missed.”

Suruba said it would be best to cancel the rest of the 2020 academic year “to save students from stress and pressure, especially those who have exams”.

Parent Dagu Hebore from Central, who has three children at school, said she did not feel safe allowing her children to go to school.

Her eldest son is in grade eight at the Bavaroko Primary School in East Boroko, while her daughter is doing grade three there too.

‘Crowded classrooms’
Her youngest son attends the Edai Early Learning at Boera outside Port Moresby.

“Schools should only reopen when it is safe for the children, especially when we have crowded classrooms,” Hebore said.

Hebore said the only way she would feel safe for her children was to be assured that schools were strictly following public health measures and hygiene practices to stop the Covid-19 transmission.

Some children in Port Moresby have to travel by public buses to school, travelling with adult passengers who still do not wear masks and in crowded buses with no hand sanitisers provided.

But NCD Governor Powes Parkop said the National Capital District Commission buses were on the road yesterday transporting students.

Aileen Kwagaru is a reporter for The National newspaper. The Pacific Media Centre republishes articles from The National with permission.

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