Senegalese children resumed classes on Thursday after the government closed schools in March in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus in the West African nation.
Some four million primary- and secondary-school pupils were meant to return to classrooms, but the turnout nationwide was unclear. UNICEF had said last month that only one in three countries in Central and West Africa had reopened schools at the due date for the 2020-2021 academic year
. Senegal, a poor nation with a population of about 16 million people, has so far been spared a large coronavirus outbreak. Health officials have registered 15,744 positive cases to date, with 326 fatalities. Only 31 people are currently being treated for the disease in the country.
Senegal initially declared a state of emergency when the pandemic reached the country in March, closing schools, imposing a curfew and restricting international flights. The government has since eased or lifted most of the restrictions, however, with children returning to school the last major anti-virus measure to come to an end.
About half a million students who were sitting exams were also allowed to return to school late June. Education ministry spokesman Mohamed Moustapha Diagne told AFP a protocol is in place in schools involving compulsory face masks, hand-washing and social distancing. But there are concerns that many schools lack protective gear and hand sanitisers, despite government promises to provide them.
“We still haven’t received a supply of masks and hydro-alcoholic gel,” said an official at a primary school in the Dakar suburb of Mbao, who requested anonymity. Most students at the school were not wearing a mask, an AFP journalist saw. Abdoulaye Ndoye, from a Senegalese teachers’ union, also said that many rural schools had not received the promised the supplies.