Rwanda begins mass Covid-19 testing for students ahead of resumption
London, Nov. 18, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Rwanda has taken covid-19 mass testing exercise to the secondary school across the country and already the Ministry of Education is targeting 3,000 Covid-19 sample to begin with
The flag-off by Minister for Education Valentine Uwamaliya, is the latest in a series of efforts by the government to tackle the spread of coronavirus, which has so far claimed 45 lives countrywide.
It also aims to ensure safety in schools as the second cohort of students plan to resume physical learning next week on November 23.
“We started this week in partnership with Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), and we aim at testing at least all categories of students in all parts of the country,” Uwamaliya said.
The exercise, which ends on Sunday, November 22, will also determine whether the second cohort of students return to their respective schools as planned
The decision will depend on the magnitude of the risk in a particular school, Uwamaliya.
“Of course if there is a big number of infected students in a certain centre, we should first be able to settle the problem to ensure that there is no risk for the incoming students,” she added.
However, the minister emphasised that; “The plan is not to close down schools, but we want to ensure that there is a solution to the problem.”
Dr Menelas Nkeshimana, the Team Lead for Covid-19 Case Management and Coordinator for the Western Province, noted that at least 500 sample tests shall be collected in every province.
“The activities started this week. We are looking at obtaining a representative sample to reflect Covid-19 disease activities in Rwandan schools,” he said.
Nkeshimana explained that different factors have been considered to be able to provide a genuine overview.
“We are putting into consideration a number of factors including the school type, whether it is boarding school or day school, we also consider the category, because this is going to be done for Universities, Secondary, as well as Primary schools,” he asserted.
Other factors include gender, age, and location of the schools among others.
“We have to look at all these dimensions because measures vary depending on the situation. The measures we put for Primary schools are different from Secondary schools”.
However, Nkeshimana decried that institutions normally want to adhere to the preventive measures only when there is an inspection or even mass testing.
“Having such a general view is important, but institutions are reminded to follow the guidelines regularly”.
“Also for those schools where cases will be found, this doesn’t mean carelessness. We don’t expect this to turn into a blame game amongst school administrators.”
Consequently, he said, “We remind headteachers that if their school doesn’t record any case, they should not relax the guidelines put in place. This is a virus that has proven to be a disaster for various parts of the world, and we can’t risk the lives of these students.”
On November 2, both Primary schools and Secondary schools resumed physical classrooms after more than eight months of digital learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the time, only students in the two candidate classes (S.6 and S.3), senior five students and those in Level 3-5 under the TVET programme were allowed to return to school as part of the phased plan.
Similarly, students in senior one, two and four are expected to return to school next week. Also to return are Primary four students as the country gears towards full resumption of physical classrooms.
Martine Uwacu Karekezi, a parent who spoke to The New Times, expressed concerns that testing should be done for both children at school and those that are set to return.
“It is better that all of them are tested. Those who have been at school, but also those that have been at home.”
Karekezi emphasized that the current pandemic is not restricted to any category of people and therefore, she said, it is essential to know the status of all of them.
“I am sure that these children will be saying farewell to their friends and of course, this is a potential loophole. We are also aware that social distancing is not practical in some schools especially (for) these young ones. So, how can you test one group and leave out the other?” she wondered.
But generally, it is a good thing, she said