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Dear parent: You, as a parent, are a voting member of the Association of the International School of Lusaka - which means that you own our...

Monday, 3 August 2020

COVID-19 Update

The hardest thing about managing this crisis is the unknowns. In March we closed schools with fewer than 30 cases in Zambia and for a long time, the rate of increase was very small. As recently as April the World Health Organization was telling us not to bother with face masks. Until July, our planning was predicated on opening our campus in August. These actions and expectations have all been confounded by events. Schools have now been closed for over four months and there is understandable pressure on them to open but how can we open with over 6000 cases when we closed with less than 5% of that total? Face masks have gone from optional extra to the law of the land in many countries. When we closed we hoped that the situation would improve by August but instead conditions have deteriorated. It is not even clear to what extent the virus is affected by seasonal conditions.

We face a situation here in Zambia where the number of cases is rising and still showing an increasing increase - a geometric progression. We do not have the resources to deal with a major public health crisis nor to cushion the economic impact of it. The authorities - and indeed our board - are caught between a rock and a hard place: Open up and risk infection; close and risk financial ruin. I do not envy them this choice. At school, we have no alternative but to keep our campus closed until there is a substantial improvement in objective conditions. The government has instructed all but examination classes to remain off-campus. We have not only a legal obligation but also an ethical imperative to comply with this directive. Our board is understandably reluctant to endanger our students and staff by reopening prematurely and our first duty here at school - even above education - is to keep our people safe from harm. There is evidence that children, although less affected by the virus, are contributing to its spread.

The rate of increase of coronavirus cases will slow and the number will decrease in time. That will be the opportune moment to reopen our campus with proper precautions in place. I do not know exactly when this will be - another unknown - but I sincerely hope it will be rather soon. Until then we must soldier on as best we can: With the finest home-based learning support that we can provide and the most comprehensive preparations for safely opening campus that we can make. I am confident that our management and staff will once more prove themselves equal to both of these challenges. Our campus may be closed but our school is still open.

On August 11th we will be returning to home-based learning informed by the lessons we learned in the last quarter. Over the following weeks we will begin to call our Year 13 and Year 11 students on to campus for specific activities such as science practical work. I expect that over time the frequency and scope of these on-campus activities will increase and in due course be extended to other year groups. We will see a gradual transition from home-based learning back to school-based learning rather than an abrupt change from 'closed' to 'open'. We are committed to supporting our students learning - whether at school or at home - for as long as it takes.

Keep safe.

Mark Fox

20 comments:

  1. Thank you HoS for timely update.

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  2. Thank you HoS for timely update.

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  3. Dear Sir, Thanks for your timely update. I am kindly requesting you to kindly also give us an clarity on the fees structures under these circumstances, as we have seen some guidelines also came from the Govt couple of months ago. Most of the institutions have already revised their fees.

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    1. Hello, you may recall that the BoG revised our fee structure May and did sent a letter early in May to all association members giving discounts for Q4 and Q1, a zero increase on fees for next year and a payment holiday on 50% of fees until end Q1 this year. This was reiterated by the letter on fees sent on 5th August as well.

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  4. Thanks a lot for the update and we fully support the actions and direction by the Board of Directors and the Management Team. May I suggest that, in my opinion classes for IDBP 1 (Year 12) should be started. The children are grown up and they can follow instructions very well. Moreover for the last 4 months, they have been practicing all the precautions and are very well versed with the Do's & Don'ts. This is an important year for them so as to start preparations for Universities. May you consider this aspect. Thanks

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    1. Hello, we would like to get students - especially Year 10 and above - back to campus as soon as possible. Right now the government does not permit us to have Year 12 students back. We are working with them on permission to do this - I will blog about our progress.

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  5. thanks for timely update. We fully understand and appreciate the decision. I am hoping the students (& parents) will soon receive time-table and other info on online and in-campus classes. Thanks.

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    1. Hello - you should hear from the principals with this information very soon.

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  6. Many thanks for this reminder ... For those who understand French (sorry I don't have an English version but I am sure you can find similar information from internationally recognised independent scientists not bind by lobbyists...
    check out among others this interview : https://youtu.be/c3V6DxmOy8o Keep sane and safe and boost your immune system by breathing fresh air every day, sport activity and eating plenty of fresh veg and fruits .... then you will be absolutely fine

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  7. Thanks for the information

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  8. Dear ISL community,

    I would like to go back on a very sensitive and difficult topic which are the fees.
    Very humbly I do feel for the families who are tried by uncertainties on employment and financial situation.

    At the same time I just witnessed in the region, the imminent closure of a school as a direct result of tremendous pressure to lower school fees in their last term. Some parents feel because the children did not go to school but receive on line daily classes they believed WRONGLY they did not receive the education they paid for. Families are now faced by trying to find a school for their children at the last minute....

    ISL is highly regarded international school in the region and on the African continent, thanks to its faculty of IB teachers. However competition is getting tougher as there is a growing number of international schools around and many more students attend the programme and the competition is fiercer to get higher grades in IB. ISL will not be able to compete if they do not have the financial ressources to attract highly experienced IB teachers and we all know that IB teachers cannot be recruited on a local level, apart from a few exception. No school can rely on exception.

    I would like to remind us all, that ISL faculty at the very last minute set up successfully (yes with a few hiccups too but still) on line classes for all. They all insured education programmes were provided and delivered; it worked. Children did not miss out. All teachers will agree it's not ideal for the students, nor for the parents or the teachers. We all agreed it's not an ideal situation but again it was provided, the school did not close, quite the contrary, the staff worked even harder to ensure kids stayed engaged with their studies.

    In order for ISL to be sustainable and improve its IB educational level, fees cannot be reduced as it is highly detrimental for all our children. Fees cannot be reduced on the feeble argument kids do not physically attend the school. It does not make any sense.

    ISL urgently need to keep recruiting highly experienced IB teachers, it needs to maintain its buildings and improve its facilities , it needs to increase its level of education to face competitors, none of this will be possible if we reduce fees.

    With immense compassion and humility I would ask ISL parents community to reflect on what they wish for the education of their children.
    Do we want a school lowering the level to such a point that even lower fees will not be satisfactory, or will face a gradual closure of the school ? Instead do we want a school which improve its level and be on the par with other first class distinguished international schools on the continent and beyond ?

    Lastly, may I mention a possible solution ? Should it not be better for the management and the Board to evaluate each family case who truly need assistance ? With honesty and transparency for all parties involved, could it be possible to work towards a sort of viable financial plan for both the school and the families ?

    Wishing you all a very nice evening,

    Béatrice

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    1. Well said, we struggle every year to pay the fees, but I fully understand that the school has costs that have to be dealt with. Thank you

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    2. Well said! Nobody's wants to home school least of all the teachers but it's the world we live in at the moment.

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    3. Thank you madam for your balanced, realistic and insightful perspective. I know my board has read your comment already, but I will ask Thokozile to include it as part of the correspondence for our next meeting.

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  9. Apologies for grammatical errors and incomplete editing Béatrice

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  10. I find it laughable that 10 minute check in with the teacher was considered online learning! We as parents are not well versed in teaching methodologies especially for us with children in the lower grades. Personally my child had to self teach as I work very late and no provisions were made for children who are left home with nannies! Should I be ok that I paid a huge amount of money in these tough times for him to have to self teach. I fear that he even has to move a grade higher because the last term was a complete waste!

    We have had to deal with income cuts, job loses, business closures and yet ISL wants to maintain the same profit margin!! That is highly unfair! We are not asking for zero fees no! We need to share the loss. 10% discount honestly was not fair. The competing schools you talk of reduced fees to 30% discount! They had teachers streaming lessons from the classroom. They provided a better platform than what our children got.

    We appreciate the school has bills but there are a lot of parents that are struggling. Do not assume that they chose to be where they are. Let us look out for one another especially in these tough times!!

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    1. Hello madam, we do appreciate the special difficulties of home-based learning for younger children but, frankly, the feedback I have had on our service has been positive within the constraints imposed by online learning. In point of fact ISL is actually a non-profit school which at the moment is running at a loss. Our board understands only too well the financial difficulties faced by parents and has to figure out how to help as much as possible without bankrupting the school - there has to be something to come back to when this crisis passes.

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  11. Dear Mr Fox
    Can the accountant share Quarter1 invoices

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    1. Hello - I believe this has been done for parents who have paid at least 50% of fees from Q4 last year.

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