The government in Senegal has decided against reopening its high schools after a cluster of coronavirus infections was detected among teachers in the south of the country.
After some two-and-a-half months of school closures, 550,000 out of 3.5 million children in the education system had been scheduled to return to their classrooms on Tuesday. This number represents students in the last three years of high school.
But late at night, the education ministry announced the move was being delayed “until a later date”. It said several cases of the coronavirus had been detected among teachers in Casamance, a region in Senegal’s far south.
An official from the education ministry said that 10 teachers had been infected in the Ziguinchor region, the capital area of Casamance. In light of this, President Macky Sall “decided to postpone the return to school to a later date in order to prevent any risk of spread”.
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Before the scheduled return, many teachers, parents, and students had expressed fears about the risk of infection. They said schools were underequipped and physical distancing and other coronavirus prevention measures are impossible to impose.
Till date, Senegal has officially counted more than 3,700 coronavirus cases, including 43 deaths. As with other African countries, the pandemic has been relatively contained. However, the weak state of Senegal’s healthcare system has raised doubts about its ability to withstand a severe outbreak.
Senegal was among the countries that swiftly introduced preventive measures against the coronavirus after the first case surfaced in March. The government imposed many restrictions that has just been extended until the end of June.
A decision is expected in the coming days on whether some measures should be lifted. This includes lifting the night-time curfew and a ban on travel between regions.