Zimbabwe teachers have said schools are not yet ready to reopen for Term 2, hinting that it would be folly if the Government treats the prevalent threat posed by the novel coronavirus on the learners as largely secondary to the need to have registered candidates sit for the 2020 June public examinations.
According to the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta), in the meantime, ‘schools are not safe and home is safe.’
Zimta president Richard Gundane (pictured above) Monday told the Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, that there were many areas that needed to be addressed before schools can be practically certified safe for reopening this year.
“We should be informed by the progress we would have done on the ground,” argued Gundane.
“We want schools to open, but what stops us is that we do not have the minimum standards to ensure schools are safe. For now, schools are not safe and home is safe. We need to set up programmes where all stakeholders are involved in response to Covid-19 to ensure learners, workers and teachers are safe according to the World Health Organisation regulations,” he said.
He said other areas that need to be addressed before schools can reopen include Covid19 training for teachers and staff, provision of protective personal equipment (PPEs), availability of running water in schools and the recruitment of more teachers to foster the concept of social distancing during the current era of the pandemic.
In a dramatic climbdown, the Zimbabwe Government has eventually developed cold feet on the reopening of schools, making an unsurprising U-turn on earlier communication.
Initially, Primary and Secondary education minister Cain Mathema had told journalists that the prioritised 2020 examination classes were going to be the first to reopen mid-June, with those writing in 2021 following suit whilst other classes would also gradually reopen for the second term in sequential order.
On the other hand, Mathema’s Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services counterpart Monica Mutsvangwa said as part of planning for the imminent return of exam classes in schools, stakeholders had started working out the practical logistics for safe and secure conditions for children to return.
Recently, the Government changed goal posts on the reopening of tertiary institutions, and consequently cancelled the tentatively slated June 1 reopening date for state universities.
Zimbabwean schools prematurely closed doors for Term 1 on the 24th of March 2020 with President Emmerson Mnangagwa officially announcing a national lockdown, three days latter.
The lockdown which began on March 30, has since been revised to an indefinite and relatively relaxed Level 2 and Mnangagwa is under pressure to update Zimbabweans on the way forward.
Health authorities say the landlocked southern African nation has, in the past three months, recorded 178 Covid19 cases and four mortalities.
Additional Reporting: Zwnews