By Nqobile Tshili and Patrick Chitumba
Schools reopen today for the second phase that will see Grade Six, Form Three and Form Five classes returning to school for the first time since March.
Schools closed prematurely towards the end of First Term as part of measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Government has resolved to reopen the schools in three phases to allow it room to monitor the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in schools.
The examination classes reopened on September 28 while the last batch will reopen on November 9.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education adopted the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to guide the safe reopening of schools under the Covid-19 environment.
Ahead of the reopening today, parents and guardians yesterday accompanied Form Three and Lower Sixth boarding pupils to different schools pickup points in Bulawayo as well as in other cities and towns.
Scores of pupils converged at the Bulawayo City Hall car park and between 8th and 9th Avenue along George Silundika Street waiting for transport.
Some of the parents made last minute shopping before their children boarded their respective school buses.
The pupils were sanitised and had temperatures checked before boarding the buses.
In Gweru, Grade Six, Form Three and Five pupils at boarding schools such as Stanley Primary School, Regina Mundi and Thornhill High Schools arrived at their respective schools yesterday afternoon ahead of today’s reopening.
Some school authorities were cashing in on the Covid-19 by forcing parents and guardians to buy schools branded masks for as much as US$5.
In Bulawayo, the parents and guardians told Chronicle that it was essential for the pupils to return to school as education cannot wait.
“We are happy that our children are finally going back to school. Most of them have regressed in their studies because they have not been to school since March. Government has been reopening various sectors of the economy and the education sector had been left behind. We just have to accept that there is Covid-19 and education has to move forward despite the pandemic,” said Mrs Nomusa Tshuma, who was accompanying a child learning at Solusi High School.
Another parent who identified herself as Mrs Sibanda said her only concern was that teachers were on strike.
“Teachers have declared that they are incapacitated so our fear is that there will be no learning at most schools. I’m however happy with the proposed school fees because it was a result of consultations between parents and school administrators. We just want our children to return to school and we leave the rest to God,” said Mrs Sibanda.
Another parent who declined to be named said parents have agreed to incentivise teachers so that they can teach.
Government banned schools from demanding incentives for teachers as some of the incentives had become extortionate.
“With what is happening it is better for us to pay the little incentives to teachers so that they return to the classroom to teach our children. Our children have already lost a lot of time as they have been stuck at home for seven months without learning. We just hope Government will urgently address the teachers’ concerns so that normalcy returns to schools. Our children’s future is at stake,” said the concerned parent.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said Government was prepared for the second phase of schools reopening.
He said the Ministry will continue to exercise caution in view of Covid-19 as it did with the running of the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) June examinations and first phase of schools opening.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communications Mr Tongoona Ndoro said: “The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is ready to provide a wholesome education for all Zimbabweans through an education system that is competence-driven and that is accessible, affordable and enables citizens to participate in the socio-economic transformation of the nation,” he said.
Mr Ndoro said it was illegal for schools to demand Personal Protective Equipment from parents. “We are investigating the issue where schools are said to be forcing parents to buy face masks at exorbitant prices,” he said.
Teachers and pupils are expected to quickly adapt to the new normal to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is mandatory for learners to wear masks while handshakes, hugs and sharing of desks and textbooks have been banned as part of Covid-19 prevention measures.
Break and lunch time will be staggered to prevent pupils crowding while sporting activities are banned. The Chronicle.