By Mashudu Netsianda
All is set for today’s resumption of studies for final year students at colleges with the Government and institutions saying they are ready for reopening after putting measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Studies were discontinued on March 24 as part of a raft of measures by Government to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Teachers’ colleges, polytechnics and vocational training centres are reopening today.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited Hillside Teachers’ College, United College of Education (UCE) and Bulawayo Polytechnic and observed that mechanisms had been put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.
At UCE, a team from Bulawayo City Council (BCC) health department, was seen fumigating the dining hall and the hostels, which were used by returnees. Government had turned most of the colleges into quarantine centres for locals returning from other countries.
The college is expecting a total of 738 students and they have been divided into groups according to subjects. This week 141 students doing practical subjects will attend classes.
Students specialising in early childhood development (ECD) teaching are coming in small numbers and the biggest number is 43 and they will attend classes at the lecture theatre which has a capacity of 250.
UCE principal Mr Adam Luthuli yesterday told Chronicle that they extended the learning hours from eight to 10 a day. He said they are going to have a maximum of 20 students per class to allow social distancing.
“We have 738 students and we have divided them into groups according to subjects because we are avoiding crowding as we want a maximum number of 200 students at the college. We also calculated the number of learning hours they had per subject before the Covid-19 lockdown and they were left with eight hours and we therefore extended them to 10,” he said.
“During the first week we are bringing in practical subjects and we have 141 students and the number is manageable in terms of social distancing and we have enough classrooms.”
He said mass lectures will be conducted at the hall, which has a capacity to accommodate up to 1 000 students. Examinations will be written between August 28 and September 3, 2020.
“These students were supposed to have completed their studies in June and without Covid-19 they would have opened in May and complete their examinations in June. We simply transferred that block of time and planted it in the period between July 13 and September 25.
“They were supposed to finish in mid-August but because we gave them more hours, they are now going to finish in September.”
Mr Luthuli said students were doing online lessons using Google classroom and other platforms.
“We have Moodle open-source learning platform on our website and we are now going to use that learning platform because it is recommended by our ministry. Beginning tomorrow (today) lecturers will be undergoing a training in Moodle,” he said.
Mr Luthuli said they also bought 500 litres of hand sanitisers, sanitiser dispensers, thermometers and 2 000 facemasks for lecturers and students.
“We have already demarcated our examination rooms and they have already been measured and 20 students will be accommodated per room and they will all come at once to write their examinations. For accommodation we have four hostels which were not being used by returnees and they will be used by our students,” he said.
Chronicle observed that at Hillside Teachers’ College, furniture in classrooms earmarked for lessons had been rearranged to accommodate the stipulated number of students. The college is this week expecting at least 200 final year students while 400 others will attend classes next week.
Hillside Teachers’ College vice-principal Mr Ishmael Godfrey Moyo said it is all systems go at the college.
“As a college we are ready to open tomorrow and it’s all systems go for our first group of final year students and today, some of them checked in their rooms and the rest will be coming tomorrow. We are expecting 200 students this week and 400 next week,” he said.
“We have two final year groups and that is a post-O-Level group who are doing a three year course and post-A Level group and these were on teaching practice and finished the programme end of last term and they will join others next week after the ratification of their (teaching practice) results by the University of Zimbabwe.”
He said each class will accommodate 49 students and a lecturer in line with the Covid-19 protocol.
Hillside Teachers College classroom
“At any given time, we cannot have more than 50 people in a room and therefore the hall will accommodate 50 students although it has a capacity to accommodate 500. We bought facemasks for students and our staff and about 1 000 litres of hydrogen peroxide and fumigated our classes on Friday in preparation for reopening and BCC assisted us in terms of training our personnel on how to handle the disinfectants,” said Mr Moyo.
The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira said all preparatory work was now complete.
“I had a meeting with colleges on Friday to assess their state of preparedness and I can safely say they are now fully prepared. All mechanisms that have got to do with the WHO guidelines as expressed through the Government health guidelines under the Ministry of Health and Child Care are in place,” he said.
“We are just going to do a sequence such that we have final years coming first and then other classes joining later. We are satisfied with the preparations made by various institutions so far.”
Universities reopened last month while examination classes for primary and secondary schools are scheduled to open on July 28. Government is currently working on modalities for re-opening schools.
Teachers were undergoing training on health protocols that are expected when lessons resume. Most schools are working on acquiring essential Covid-19 personal protective equipment such as thermometers, sanitisers and face masks. The Chronicle