Tuesday, 17 March 2020
About COVID-19 : Along with many areas around the world, Lesotho may experience an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This virus can spread from person-to-person and the number of detected cases is growing around the world. Several organizations have issued closing operations in order to prevent the possible spread of the virus. The resources in this guide are intended to help parents, guardians, and families understand the school’s role during a closure, commitments to students, and what making days up at the end of the school year looks like.
Government vs. Local Authority : In Lesotho, local schools have a great amount of decision- making authority over how their organizations operate. The government often lays the foundation, and then provides schools with flexibility to meet the needs of their unique communities. The decision to close schools is regularly made by local school leaders in response to current issues in the community, weather anomalies, water issues, and other events in order to maintain the health and safety of students and staff.
During a health-related outbreak, schools must close if directed to by their local/Government led health offices. Local school leaders are advised to follow the expert advice and direction of public health officials in their local communities. During this particular health outbreak, parents and families should look to their school leaders, local government health officer, and the Ministry of Health for the most current and accurate information.
Expectations of Schools : Currently, the government expects schools to be:
- Communicating regularly with students, families, staff, and the larger school community.
- Practicing routine cleaning and disinfecting procedures of commonly touched surfaces.
- Maintaining an open line of communication with their local public health officials.
- Intentionally and persistently combatting stigma through information sharing. COVID-19 is not at all connected to race, ethnicity, or nationality.
- Actively engaging in contingency planning for the possibility of extended school closures.
There are other expectations and considerations from Schools as this situation unfolds. These are outlined in more detail on the pages that follow.
Make-up Days for School Closures : If a school closes schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, they should make every effort to make up missed time, including using scheduled vacation days and planned school closure days. Districts-schools will be expected to make up as much time as they can, using those previously scheduled closure days, through July 17, 2020. Unless the schools receive an emergency waiver, then all days will be made up. Please note, it is Machabeng College’s expectation that our school will have to extend the graduation dates to late June 2020 and petition to move assessment dates.
Student Attendance : Many parents, and guardians have expressed concern about student absences related to COVID-19 safety concerns. Generally, laws require school leaders to excuse absences due to safety concerns as well as absences due to illness, a health condition, or a medical appointment.
The law also provides schools with the authority to define additional categories or criteria for excused absences should the need arise. Machabeng College and the subsidiary schools in Maseru know that community fears may be high as identified cases increase near the Lesotho border, particularly for families with loved ones living in the home who have a compromised immune system.
In a meeting, we have directed our neighboring independent schools to exercise great caution before deciding not to excuse absences related to COVID-19. Also, because of this outbreak, Machabeng College will bend on attendance with
students and faculty who may be at risk. Further, as a government subsidized school (public), we follow the lead of the government. We will close when the government directs us too.
Regular and Special Education : If the College has extended school closures due to an outbreak, the school will remain responsible for the appropriate public education (MC-A.P.E.) for all of its students. Those eligible for special education services with an individualized education program (IEP) will receive the same standards for learning and similar applications of how work will be planned and obtained during the closing period of the school.
Schools should be communicating with parents and guardians prior to, during, and after a school closure regarding their child’s learning/assigned work and/or IEP services. After an extended closure, schools are responsible for reviewing how the closure impacted the delivery of learning to both regular and special education as well as related services to all students.
Please note, if a school closure causes educational services for all students to pause within a school, teachers and staff will plan ahead and give students a guide-outline of studies for the period that they are out of school. For special education students, the school is generally not required to provide services to the affected special education students during that same period of time. The learning environment at home is supported by the parent/guardian.
Online Learning : Most schools in Lesotho are not prepared to implement a distance learning model, such as online learning, on short notice. Some schools may be in a position to continue teaching using distance learning methods; however, equity is a critical consideration. It is important to note that if educational services are being delivered to students in any form, in order for the school to remain open, those services must be provided to all students, including students who don’t have access to technology at home and students receiving special education services. Machabeng College believes that for most schools, it will make more sense to cancel school altogether than to organize an expensive learning model that cannot be accessed equitably by all students for lack of technology access.
School Meals : Continuity of food services, especially for students experiencing poverty or boarding, is an important factor that schools may expect. Schools have to consider before deciding to close school.
Bullying and Harassment : COVID-19 is not at all connected to race, ethnicity, or nationality. School staff should be mindful that bullying, intimidation, or harassment of students based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, or disability (including the actual disability of being infected with COVID-19 or perception of being infected) may result in a violation of civil rights laws. School must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate what occurred when responding to reports of bullying or harassment. If parents and families believe their child has experienced bullying, harassment, or intimidation related to the COVID-19 outbreak, they should contact their school’ leadership.
Avoid spreading rumors. We follow the facts as the school receives information.
Notifications : If schools are experiencing school closures, it is Machabeng College’s expectation that administration will plan and follow a standard procedure for notifying parents and guardians. This includes, but is not limited to, calls, emails, text messages, and contacting local radio and news stations. If parents and families are not hearing from their children or the school during a closure, they should get in touch with their school leadership.
Testing : Should the need arise, schools will work with alternate scheduling or adjustments related to tests scheduled to take place in the spring.
The best place to find accurate, up-to-date information is the Ministry of Health website (http://www.health.gov.ls/ ). If you have questions about what is happening in Lesotho, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call (+266 58850055/ 63000033).
In addition, information of Machabeng College’s guidance and resources related to COVID-19 will be available to all staff and families as well as continuing information will be posted on the Machabeng College website (https://www.machcoll.co.ls). If you have questions related to the topics above, please contact reception at Machabeng College tele- 22-313-224.
Best regards and good health to the school community of Machabeng College