COVID-19: South Sudan’s schools set to reopen, minister says

FILE PHOTO: Students sit an exam in South Sudan. (Photo by Alex McBride / AFP)

Schools in South Sudan are set to reopen nearly seven months after they were closed as part of the government’s measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Sudan’s Information minister Michael Makuei told The East African that the decision had been arrived at after a comprehensive study by the National Taskforce on Covid-19.

Makuei said that the report “observed that the level of infection has reduced and there have been no more cases in the last few weeks.”

“After that study, it was decided that schools and higher learning institutions should re-open at times to be fixed by the General and Higher Education ministries. The guidelines to be followed will be issued by the concerned ministries.”

In July, a number of international aid organisations urged the government to reopen schools warning that children face a number of perils while away from classrooms. These dangers included early pregnancies, child labour, recruitment into illegal groups and mental anguish.

A joint statement by UNICEF and UNESCO argued that children and schools were not the predominant drivers of the spread of the pandemic.

At the time, Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Thuoi Loi said it was unclear when the virus will be under control and children can safely return to school.

Makuei also said restrictions on working hours had been lifted and that offices will open from 8am to 5pm beginning next week.

The government has previously faced criticism for relaxing restrictions despite still registering increases in COVID-19 cases. Some of the previous easing of restrictions included reduction of the curfew period, resumption of regional flights and the reopening of markets, shops and bars.

South Sudan had more than 2,500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including more than 45 deaths and more than 1,200 recoveries.