Children usually look forward to a school break, assuming it will be a time to relax.
As the virus continues to spread, schools keep closing. Nearly a billion children have seen their schools close, thus seeing their schooling interrupted (for how long?) As a result of Covid-19. Just over 100 countries, including China, Italy, South Korea, some in the Maghreb, sub-Saharan and southern Africa, have closed their schools, as have 43 states in the US as part of efforts to contain covid -19. (Source: The Economist).
But in Benin, the authorities have kept nurseries, schools and universities open while certain places of large masses such as churches, mosques and some recreation centers have been closed.
Schools, where kids with sticky fingers gather every day, share toys and suck on pencils, are an obvious place for disease to thrive; which worries parents of pupils, religious leaders and certain members of civil society.
The government is turning a deaf ear to the calls made on both sides for the end of classes in schools and universities to be declared.
In 2013, Britain's Health Protection Agency looked at influenza outbreaks that coincided with the school closings. She found that closing them slows down the transmission of the virus, although it also slows down the transmission of knowledge.
There is limited data on whether school closures will limit covid-19. Children may not be the “primary routes of transmission,” says Michael Head, who studies global health at the University of Southampton. And the economic, social and educational costs are heavy.
For all governments, deciding whether or not to close schools is a choice between two bad options.
If schools close, many parents will be forced to stay at home to look after their children. While in Western countries, some parents can stay at home and work, this is not the case for most parents in Africa and in Benin in particular. Not all parents have the right to work from home or take paid sick leave. In Benin, many people are self-employed and therefore are not entitled to sickness benefit. People in precarious work can lose their jobs if they have to stay home to care for children. This suggests that many health workers will stay at home to care for their offspring. We could thus foresee a deficit of agent in the hospitals and a paralysis of the administration. However, the immediate concern is how the prolonged school closures will affect the education of our children. Those preparing for crucial exams are particularly nervous about what to do next.
However, would the government of Benin be totally wrong in deciding to keep schools open for the moment? How can we respect the social distance required in our schools if they remain open? Shouldn't we be thinking about the preparatory strategies for a possible containment in the coming days?
Dear parents, if our children must continue to go to school, let us not forget to remind them each time of the precautions to be taken when they are at school so as not to fall ill. Otherwise, let everyone take their responsibilities. It is the least we can do.