Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter
ADEQUATE measures informed by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines have been put in place to ensure schools and colleges reopen safely in the proposed phases without risking a spike in Covid-19 infections.
This was corroborated yesterday by school heads who said they were not expecting any major challenges with the handling of classes and public examinations.
National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH) chair Mrs Cynthia Khumalo said it was all systems go for Grade Seven classes and examinations.
In keeping with social distancing rules, the classes would be broken into smaller groups handled by additional teachers already employed at schools, while examinations would be taken from more classrooms and spacious halls to minimise chances of spreading the virus.
“In our case, we are only talking about Grade Sevens, so all the available teachers will be assigned to teach the few Grade Sevens from more classrooms.
“It is the same thing with boarding schools. There will not be any congestion in boarding facilities because only a few kids are coming.”
“For the Grade Ones to Six, we are waiting for direction from the Government,” said Mrs Khumalo.
National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) president Mr Arthur Maposa said there were still concerns around testing, disinfection of schools and availability of transport.
“Schools have not yet been disinfected. Teachers and learners have not been tested for Covid-19 and inter-city transport is not yet available.
“Heads, teachers and learners are all eager to return to school and work but we appeal to the Government to help us meet WHO guidelines and fulfil all standard operating procedures,” said Mr Maposa.
In separate interviews, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema and his Higher Education counterpart, Professor Amon Murwira, said systems had been put in place for strict adherence to health protocols to protect all stakeholders.
The Government announced on Tuesday that learning would resume on September 14 for Cambridge examinations classes and September 28 for Zimbabwe School Examinations Council examinations.
Ambassador Mathema said the June exams were conducted successfully and without any problems, with the Government expecting a similar outcome in the second round of public exams scheduled for December.
“Headmasters, boarding masters and all those involved have been told what to do. They will follow World Health Organisation protocols. All stakeholders, Ministry of Health, us and everyone involved, will be monitoring adherence to the prescribed protocols.
“The ECD children (those being prepared for Grade 1) are the most difficult to control, and they are going to be last. We will take advice from all stakeholders on when it will be safe for re-opening. We are a consulting Government. The President is a consulting President.
Professor Amon Murwira said college students were mostly having online classes, but safety measures would be taken when they were writing examinations.
“When they are writing the exams, we will have the same rotational method we used — that is final years followed by third, second and first years. Some universities had already finished, but those ones that had not yet finished are continuing.
“We will follow all the WHO guidelines that the Ministry of Health has given us. Everybody should be doing that and we are not doing anything outside the law.”
Speaking after a parliamentary sitting on Wednesday, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, hoped the measures put in place would ensure the safety of all stakeholders. “We would really want the safety of pupils, teachers, parents and all stakeholders to be guaranteed come September 28,” she said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Mr Raymond Majongwe said the Government should not ignore the welfare of teachers who were supposed to work under safe conditions.
He particularly mentioned the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and water for Bulawayo schools.
Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, however, said most schools had water tanks and boreholes.
“We are in consultation with various stakeholders to ensure that water is availed to schools so that learning is not disrupted. We have addressed challenges at the schools we were told had challenges, so I can say in Bulawayo we do not have such problems because we are responding to all the concerns.