Schools opening deferred to a date to be announced

GOVERNMENT has deferred the opening of schools to a date to be announced due to the spike in Covid-19 cases and the threat posed by the downgraded tropical depression Chalane.

Schools were initially scheduled to reopen on Monday for the First Term of 2021 closing on March 24.

Players in the education sector including parents and guardians had also raised concerns over the planned reopening of schools saying the move could trigger new infections at schools.

Several schools recorded an increase of Covid-19 cases among pupils and teachers last term forcing some schools to prematurely close.

Chronicle on Tuesday conducted an online poll to get people’s views on the previously planned reopening of schools.
The survey results showed that 71 percent were against schools opening, 21 percent supported their reopening while eight percent were undecided.

In a statement yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education Permanent Secretary Mrs Tumisang Thabela said only Ordinary and Advanced Level candidates will resume their final year examinations next week.

“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education would like to advise its valued learners, parents, guardians and other stakeholders, that in light of the surge in Covid-19 infections and the new and more contagious variants of the disease as well as the threat posed by Cyclone Chalane, Government has seen it fit to deviate from the previously announced 2021 School Calendar that directed schools to open on 4 January 2021.

In this regard, please be advised that: 2020 Zimsec O and A-level examinations will resume on 5 January 2021 to 5 February 2021 as previously announced,” said Mrs Thabela.

“Having deferred the opening of schools beyond 4 January, dates for the commencement of the 2021 School Calendar for all primary and secondary schools will be announced in due course as Government monitors the situation.”

She said players in the education sector should not let their guard down on Covid-19 prevention measures.

“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education takes this opportunity to remind learners, parents and guardians to reinforce wearing of masks, physical distancing as well as hand washing to prevent the spread and infections of Covid-19,” she said.

“In the meantime, heads of schools should continue with preparations for the safe opening of schools and the accelerated implementation of teaching and learning activities. The ministry remains committed to the provision of quality, relevant, equitable, inclusive and wholesome education for all Zimbabweans.”

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Dr Takavafira Zhou said the deferred schools opening should be used to prepare for a safe reopening.

“The postponement is a good move but that alone is not enough. The postponement must be followed by engagements with teachers’ unions and other stakeholders to ensure that there is adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in schools.

We should test teachers, students and ancillary staff before schools open given that when we closed last term, many schools had recorded increased Covid-19 cases among pupils and teachers,” said Dr Zhou.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu commended Government for taking a proactive move to protect pupils and teachers from the pandemic and cyclone.

“That’s a proactive move that will save lives especially considering that there is also a Cyclone threat.

“It’s a good move to protect the lives of pupils and educators considering that buildings at some schools are not strong enough and may collapse due to heavy rains,” said Dr Ndlovu.

He said while deferring schools opening will not stop the spread of Covid-19, the education sector should utilise the period to adequately prepare for safe reopening.

Dr Ndlovu said the education sector should quickly adjust to Covid-19 environment as it is clear that the pandemic is far from over.

Health expert Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said the move was most welcome as it is going to save lives of children and teachers.

“This latest development is a good and well thought out decision by Government given the prevailing situation. Opening schools when the country is recording a spike in Covid-19 cases is suicidal,” said Prof Ngwenya.

He said education can always wait and there is no harm delaying learning because even adults can still go to school.

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