Zimbabwe: Safety Before Schools Reopen - Zimta

The reopening of schools should not be determined by the desire to have June examinations written, but by progress in ensuring that schools are safe for pupils and staff to curb the spread of Covid-19, teachers have said.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education chaired by Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga yesterday where it stressed that schools should be preparing for re-opening by ensuring all the necessary facilities were put in place to guarantee safety.

Zimta president Mr Richard Gundane said schools should first meet the required minimum standards that include having running water, masks, personal protective clothing and the proper good teacher-pupil ratio to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

He said teachers and staff should be trained on the disease, adding that there was need for the recruitment of more teachers.

"We should be informed by the progress we would have done on the ground," said Mr 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."

Similarly, as part of planning for the imminent return of exam classes in schools, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa recently said stakeholders had started working out the practical logistics for safe and secure conditions for children to return.

Minister Mutsvangwa said consultations were being conducted at provincial, district and cluster level with stakeholders on the practical logistics for safe and secure conditions for all examination classes to begin in the shortest possible time.

Mrs Misihairabwi Mushonga expressed concern that the presentations by Zimta and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education were not offering usable alternatives.

"We are as concerned as you are, but as a committee we have not heard your specific alternatives, for instance, the June exams -- what are your proposed dates," she said.

"Both teachers and the ministry have not been able to provide different contexts in Zimbabwe. For example, we have private schools that do not have challenges with the issue of social distancing. We have boarding schools that have shared dormitories and bathrooms.

"We have backyard schools and satellite schools. What we have established as a committee is that both parties are not speaking about the different contexts."

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