By Nqobile Tshili
Government is expected to make an announcement regarding the opening of schools by next week.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Nick Mangwana posting on his Twitter account on Friday said Cabinet deliberated on the reopening of schools last Tuesday before resolving to defer the reopening by two weeks.
“Many are asking about the opening of schools. In its first meeting of 2021, Cabinet resolved that schools remain closed for another two weeks. This position will be reviewed at the end of the two weeks,” tweeted Mr Mangwana.
Schools closed on December 18 after briefly opening last year.
They were set to reopen on January 4 but Government indefinitely deferred the reopening following a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said it was no longer sustainable to keep the schools closed.
He said the education sector suffered in 2020 and there was an urgent need to find ways of ensuring pupils learn despite the pandemic.
“The truth of the matter is that there won’t be sufficient resources to meet the demands of Covid-19 prevention measures and as such a compromise must be made and that is where we bring in the issue of dialogue. We need to have a basic minimum that has to be met.
For example, we should know how primary pupils are affected by Covid-19 as well as their teachers. We should prepare to live with the virus. We can’t be running away from the virus by continuously opening and closing our schools but we have to come up with measures to mitigate against rapid infections in schools,” said Dr Ndlovu.
He said the dialogue on saving the country’s education should include parents, teachers and Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education officials.
He said most classes will be progressing to the next level without adequate learning time because of the Covid-19 disruptions.
“We should agree on a catch up programme and what motivation tools to be provided so that teachers can go an extra mile to ensure pupils catch up in addition to their normal teaching programme. We need to rethink around the time tabling of the school’s calendar. What does it mean? We have to change, do we still have a one-month long break or a one week to two weeks’ vacation,” he said.
Dr Ndlovu said parents would have to play a critical role in mobilising part of the resources that will ensure a smooth reopening of schools.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Dr Takavafira Zhou said there is need for an investment in the country’s education sector.
He said the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education should consult and find consensus among players in the education sector as opposed to issuing directives.
Primary and Secondary Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said it was important for schools to be safe when they open.
“Our assessment as a committee when we visited some of the schools is that they were not safe because they lacked basics such as water. Lack of water at some schools in Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South should be addressed urgently before schools open.
“Bulawayo is an urban area but has a water crisis affecting some schools. There is no way schools can meet the minimum hygiene standards without water. We can provide consumables such as sanitisers but pupils need to wash their hands regularly and after visiting the toilet,” said Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
She said Government as part of the preparations for schools opening, Government and teachers must resolve all outstanding issues so that teachers are motivated when they return to the classroom.
“You don’t want to take those kids to where supervision is not there, learning is not there. The children are not going to play centres but schools and a school can only be a school when teachers perform their duties,” she said. The Chronicle