By Patrick Chitumba
Some aspiring Form One pupils, especially those who got more than 10 units in their 2020 Grade 7 examinations risk failing to secure boarding places as schools are reducing intakes.
With most schools rushing to enrol pupils who got five to 10 units — a bleak future beckons for pupils who were hoping for boarding school places.
Pupils who got five units are the ones that are likely to get boarding places.
Government ordered boarding schools across the country to cut their intake for this year to allow for social distancing among learners.
The order by the Government is also going to affect operations in the schools whose finances have been affected by Covid-19-induced closures.
For example, in Gweru, Regina Mundi High School is said to be enrolling only about 63 pupils for boarding instead of 93.
Thornhill High School is only taking six boys and six girls for boarding places.
Fletcher and Chaplin High Schools are also allegedly taking fewer pupils for boarding places.
Parents, some from Harare and Bulawayo, who want their children to be boarders at schools such as Regina Mundi and Thornhill High schools said they are now being forced to look for alternative boarding houses for their children who failed to secure boarding places.
“I stay in Harare and my child got a place at Regina Mundi High School but they offered her a day place. Because we love this school, we are now going to look for boarding houses in Gweru hoping that won’t affect our child’s learning.
We were told that they are cutting down on boarding places because of Covid-19 restrictions,” said a parent on condition of anonymity.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education deputy spokesperson Mr Patrick Zumbo said his ministry advised school heads to observe set Standard Operating Procedures as they execute their duties.
“I am not sure of the numbers that you are talking about. We have to check. However, it’s common cause that we are still operating under Covid-19. As such the Standard Operating Procedures have to be adhered to. Issues of social distancing still apply. As a Ministry, we believe that it is better to err on the side of caution in order to save lives,” said Mr Zumbo.
National Association of School Heads president Mr Arthur Maphosa confirmed the development.
“Yes, but the truth is yes numbers are being regulated depending on the size of the schoo . . . What the school can accommodate,” he said.
Mr Maphosa said the development will lead to some pupils failing to secure places.
“This will certainly lead to some failing to secure places, but safeguarding lives is more important than just giving them places to come and violate Covid-19 rules on overcrowding. It will take some time to allow the Government and schools to improve on infrastructure that can help accommodate bigger numbers,” he said.
On schools being ready to reopen once the official dates are announced, Mr Maphosa said assuring pupils and teachers that the Covid-19 vaccine won’t harm them is crucial.
“The Covid-19 pandemic especially in the months of January and February caused so much scare as death and contraction numbers increased.”
We cannot, therefore, say we are 100 percent ready to reopen because so much needs to be done. All personnel need testing including learners, PPE have to be sufficient and there has to be intensive training of staff on Covid-19 protocols. Assuring people that the vaccine won’t harm them is important,” he said.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education said boarding schools, while doing their normal enrolment, must follow the Ministry of Health and Child Care, and World Health Organisation protocols and guidelines on Covid-19.
“It has come to our attention that there is some misunderstanding with regards to Form 1, 2021 boarding school enrolment.
“Heads of schools are advised that as they do their normal enrolment, they must follow the Ministry of Health and Child Care, and World Health Organisation protocols and guidelines on Covid-19,” reads the statement.
School heads, the Ministry said, are further advised that schools remain closed.
“Meanwhile, they are encouraged to continue finding ways of reaching learners without face-to-face contact,” read the statement. The Chronicle