A headline reading, “There is no reason to close schools anymore…! Schools should be reopened immediately…!”, is posted on the web recently. It is circulating as a statement made by Gathsaurie Neelika Malavige, a senior Professor and the current Head of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine at the Faculty of Medical Science,at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, academic visitor of the MRC Human Immunology Unit at the University of Oxford, UK. Her current area of focus is the immunopathogenesis of COVID-19 related protection and virus strains.
Further observation of the news revealed that the professor indicated the following;
- the schools should be reopened soon,
- it is no longer practical to close schools further,
- schools have been opened in many western countries where a significant number of COVID infected cases are reported,
- only 15 countries, including Sri Lanka, has decided to close schools as of last May, 2021.
The relevant news:
The original source of the above news is from a speech made by Prof. Neelika Malavige for the students of Gateway College, Sri Lanka. The speech is available on the YouTube channel of Gateway College which was uploaded on September 04, 2021.
When fact-checking the above news against the speech of the professor, it shows that what she means is as follows;
- even though the US and some other western countries have been severely affected by COVID-19, they have opened up schools, but Sri Lanka has not,
- Sri Lankan parents are afraid of sending their kids to schools in such a backdrop,
- schooling has not been a priority for some reason, when observing verified statistics she presented during her speech,
- Sri Lanka is more worried about about parents and not about children.
However, she has not directly made the statement that schools in Sri Lanka should be reopened, as is mentioned in the above news.
However, she draws upon a statement made by the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, and the Director-General of UNICEF, Audrey Azoulay reading, “Reopening schools cannot wait”.
Posting a personal note on Facebook, the professor confirms that the facts presented in the circulating news stating that schools should be reopened, misleads the public and is a misquoting of her speech which was a reference to statements made by UNICEF personnel.
Hence, it is confirmed that the news circulating as a statement by Prof. Neelika Malavige about reopening of schools is actually a statement made by the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, and the Director-General of UNICEF, Audrey Azoulay.