By Mashudu Netsianda
Two private schools in Bulawayo’s affluent suburbs are defying Covid-19 lockdown regulations by conducting physical lessons.
President Mnangagwa on Tuesday extended the enhanced level four lockdown regulations by a further two weeks with Cabinet resolving to postpone face-to-face learning to reduce infections.
Schools, which were initially scheduled to open on June 28 for the second term, remain closed for the next two weeks following a spike in Covid-19 cases in the country.
Investigations by Chronicle revealed that one of the schools that has been conducting lessons, Absorbent Minds Pre-School in Hillside suburb, is allegedly unregistered.
The school caters for children aged from 13 months to five years.
It, however, could not be established whether the other school, which is operating at Drummond Ranch in Burnside, is registered.
When the news crew visited the two institutions, children were playing outside in the garden with their teachers monitoring them.
Disguising as parents looking for a place at the Drummond Ranch School in Burnside suburb, the news crew spoke to one of the unsuspecting teachers who openly admitted that they were conducting physical lessons.
“Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 regulations, we are not taking new pupils. Of course, we are conducting lessons and we have 12 pupils attending our classes from Monday to Friday,” said the teacher.
She also revealed that they had secured a piece of land where they intend to construct classroom blocks.
When the journalists later identified themselves and sought contacts of the owner of the school, one Mrs Toni Drummond, the teacher went inside the house, which is used as a classroom on the pretext that she was getting the contacts.
She returned a few minutes with a colleague and they changed their story.
“Actually, we are not conducting any lessons, these are just bike lessons that we conduct every Friday. In any case, who allowed you to access our premises?”
All sporting activities remain banned during the lockdown.
The teachers, who were visibly frightened, immediately dismissed the pupils.
When our photographer took the pictures of the children playing in the garden, the teachers got furious and immediately ordered the security guard to lock the gate before they subsequently called the detectives from Hillside Police Station.
The news crew was detained at the premises for almost an hour while waiting for the police to arrive at the scene.
When the police arrived, the children had already disappeared from the scene. Ironically, police did not bother to quiz the teachers on why they were violating Covid-19 preventive measures.
The news crew was taken to Hillside Police Station where the officer in charge of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) briefly interviewed the journalists before releasing them without any charges.
At Absorbent Minds Pre-School, children were playing in the garden. A teacher who declined to reveal her identity said they were not conducting physical lessons. She claimed that the pupils had gathered for a birthday party.
Under the enhanced level four lockdown regulations recently extended by President Mnangagwa by another two weeks, all public gatherings, including parties are banned.
Quizzed on why they were having a party when public gatherings have been banned, the teacher referred the news crew to the school administrator only identified as Mrs King.
Mrs King’s cellphone continuously went unanswered before it eventually went on voicemail.
Responding to questions sent via their Facebook page, Absorbent Minds Pre-School said: “We have received your message and appreciate you reaching out. We are currently closed until Government announces the reopening of schools.”
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Mr Taungana Ndoro said schools that violate Covid-19 regulations risk being deregistered.
“The Government has suspended physical learning as part of Covid-19 lockdown measures in view of the spike in new cases. We therefore expect all schools, both public or private to adhere to the regulations and those that violate the lockdown measures risk being deregistered,” he said.
Mr Ndoro said the Ministry will institute investigations to establish whether the two Bulawayo schools are on the list of those registered.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said they will investigate the matter.
Cabinet recently directed that Treasury urgently releases the first tranche of $368,2 million it had committed towards funding the enforcement of Level 4 lockdown measures as part of efforts aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19.
Last month, another private primary school in Victoria Fall, Shalom Kids Learning Centre was found conducting physical lessons. The Chronicle