LILONGWE, Feb. 22 — Malawi government on Monday opened schools after a 5-week delay in the wake of COVID-19 resurgence and accelerating infection and death rates since January.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera announced the opening of schools following a 7 percent decrease in the positivity rate of the pandemic from 22 percent to 15 percent in the past two weeks.

In his weekly update on COVID-19 on Sunday, Chakwera said the reopening of schools includes all public and private schools across the country.

“Because schools have been closed for the past five weeks, the Ministry of Education has revised the academic calendar for public schools to ensure that students receive adequate teaching to meet curriculum requirements,” he said.

Malawi government has also recruited over 3,200 new primary school teachers to meet the demand that has come with social distancing since classes are being split into two or more.

But teachers across the country started a sit-in on Monday, demanding protective gear and risk allowances for teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) President, Willy Malimba, told local media that the sit-in is meant to push the government to address their concerns which were presented way back when schools were to be opened in January.

“We are starting the strike on Monday and we will call it off once the government brings to the table something tangible,” said Malimba.

Reports from across the country Monday morning indicated that, in most schools, children were either sent back or left unattended by the protesting teachers.

“We are taking a risk to be in class with children who have reported without any medical certificate indicating that they are COVID-19 free: we cannot start teaching without protective gear,” a teacher in the commercial city of Blantyre was quoted by local media Monday.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Chikondi Chimala, told the local media that the teachers’ concerns “were submitted to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for consideration”.

Meanwhile, Malawi has over 12,600 active cases of COVID-19 with over 200 cases recorded Sunday.

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