YAOUNDE - Schools and universities in Cameroon have opened Monday with hundreds of thousands going to class, despite the number of COVID-19 infections continuing to increase. Cameroon so far has 6,380 confirmed cases of the virus with 273 deaths. But officials say the increasing number of recoveries from the virus and health measures taken at schools makes them confident that they can handle the pandemic.
Speaking on Cameroon state media CRTV on Sunday, Cameroon prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute said president Paul Biya ordered schools that he closed last March 17 as part of measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus to reopen on June 1st because 3, 630 of the 6, 380 COVID-19 patients in the central African state have recovered from the killer disease indicating that the strategy put in place by the government to protect its citizens from the coronavirus is yielding posotive results.
The prime minister said a majority of the 2, 300 active COVID-19 patients were responding to treatment and that enough measures have been taken to reduce the risk of contamination at school.
"Let us not give into panic," he said. "The ministers concerned have been instructed to ensure that protective masks are worn and that social distancing is respected. They should also make available the required sanitary kits such as hand sanitizers and hand washing buckets in each establishment."
Ngute said all schools will be disinfected at least three times a week and that schools that lack water will be provided with the liquid daily by the government. Ngute said not more than 24 children will be admitted in classrooms and that only one will sit on a bench instead of four or five as has been the practice.
But 19-year-old Velma Soli says the government did not respect its promises and she decided to return home.
"I went to school and I discovered that the face masks and hand sanitizers were not available as the government said so I decided to come back to the house and wait. When the hand sanitizers and face masks are ready, I will go back to school," she said.
Teachers and university lecturers complained that some classes and lecture halls were congested and there was lack of water and soap to wash hands in some establishments.
Naloca Lyonga, Cameroon minister of secondary education says while the government is struggling to provide what is needed to protect children and teachers at school, parents should also make an effort to provide their kids with what is needed to reduce COVID-19 spread and make sure children have their rights to be educated in spite of coronavirus threats.
"Do we want to stay at home for ever because there is a virus? No. So this is the time when we should support the leadership of Cameroon," said Lyonga. "We have made sure that everybody who is involved is going to be covered as far as masks are concerned, as far as the water in the schools are concerned."
Lyonga said after Monday’s return of high school students who will be writing their General Certificate of Education and those of primary school age who will sit the First School Leaving Certificate Examination, the government will for three days observe if the students and teachers are behaving well to stop COVID-19 spread before allowing their peers of other classes to start school on Thursday.
The government said although schools and universities reopened effectively in spite of the coronavirus spread, hundreds of parents especially in the towns of Yaounde, Douala and Bafoussam, that have recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Cameroon, did not send their children to school.
The French Embassy in Yaounde asked its citizens not to allow their children to go to school because, according to them, Cameroon’s capacity to take care of COVID-19 cases continue to reduce as the number of positive cases increase.