Schools reopen in Côte d’Ivoire amidst Covid-19 protective measures

Children wear face masks in a classroom at a primary school in the popular district of Attecoube in Abidjan on May 25, 2020 on the first day day after resumption of classes after COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Schools have reopened in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire after the country lifted an almost two-month curfew in its fight against the coronavirus epidemic . Nightclubs, cinemas and bars will remain closed.

Thousands of children in face masks flocked back to school on Monday, and authorities are confident that pupils can study together in safety after the introduction of extra hygiene measures.

“At first we were a little scared. When we saw that the protective measures were being respected, the fear went away,” said 14-year-old Samira Cisse.

With a total of 2,376 cases and dozens of new infections each day, Côte d’Ivoire has yet to contain the virus.

But In Abidjan’s Adjame neighbourhood, children in backpacks queued to wash their hands under a teacher’s watchful eye before entering their school, where they sat just one to a desk with bottles of sanitising gel within reach.

“We also have an imperative duty to ensure that the children entrusted to us can complete their education,” Assoumou Kabran, an education ministry official said.

Reopening classrooms also means thousands of pupils and their teachers must be ferried back to boarding schools outside Abidjan, epicentre of the epidemic.

French teacher Patrick Yobouet, 38, waited with hundreds of others in a sun-baked stadium to board buses out of the city.

“We’re a bit worried as we leave, because we don’t know if we have the coronavirus or not or if the children are contaminated or not,” he said.

Nearby countries are likely to follow closely if Côte d’Ivoire’s decision to reopen schools does not cause a spike in infection. With millions of children still at home, aid agency Save the Children says many could face serious setbacks due to limited options for distance learning in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

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