HEALTH stakeholders have expressed concern over the safety of schoolchildren after government ordered the opening of educational institutions under phase three at a time the country is recording a spike in COVID-19 cases.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
This also comes at a time five students recently tested positive for the coronavirus at a boarding school in Matabeleland.
There has also been less supervision of students at schools as teachers are on strike, a situation that stakeholders fear might expose pupils to a second wave of COVID-19 which has already affected several countries.
Daily statistics from the Health ministry from the beginning of this month revealed that less than 10 people were testing positive for COVID-19. However, two weeks on the number of those testing positive for the virus has peaked to over 40, with most of the cases being recorded in Matabeleland North and Bulawayo.
With the rise in cases of COVID-19, the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike expressed concern over the safety of pupils as most areas wee facing acute water shortages.
“The reopening of schools was inevitable as the virtual learning programme was not inclusive and data bundles were generally not affordably to a majority of the parents and guardians.
We are, however, worried by the complacency that has set in among Zimbabweans, including school authorities, parents and pupils, who have virtually stopped following the WHO COVID-19 guidelines despite high chances of a second wave that could even be more disastrous than the first attack that began in March in the country,” Rusike said.
“Of late, CWGH has observed, with extreme concern and disbelief, that some schools are not enforcing social distancing among pupils, wearing of face masks or frequent washing of hands by students, staff and teachers. Such complacency among Zimbabweans, and more specifically in schools, is not only dangerous to those individuals, but is a threat to the health of all the people in Zimbabwe,” he said.
During a Research Advocacy Unit (Rau) meeting last week, stakeholders highlighted the same concerns saying there was need to come up with a better plan to ensure that both teachers and pupils were protected.
A Great Zimbabwe University student Brian Charova said while education was a right, there was need to guarantee the safety of children.
“We should attain this right in a safe way. We as students need a safe environment. The government should refocus issues of COVID-19 in terms of schools that are less privileged and put the reality on the ground other than having a flowery template, yet practically things are not happening on the ground,” Charova said.
Rusike said most schools opened without adequate personal protective equipment, water and thermometers.