Government says it is satisfied there is limited risk of Covid-19 outbreaks in schools during the final term of the year following preparations for the safe reopening of learning institutions which have been ongoing over the last three months.
Public examination classes begin face-to-face learning tomorrow, while the rest of the classes will open next Monday.
Over the last three months, authorities have been preparing schools for reopening through providing sanitation utilities including running water and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for pupils and staff.
This culminated in the Government deploying inspectors and public health officers to assess compliance with Covid-19 control protocols ahead of the reopening.
Communications and Advocacy Director for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Taungana Ndoro, said authorities were discussing the possibility of setting up Covid-19 vaccination centres at schools to allow for the inoculation of pupils.
This follows the opening up of Covid-19 vaccination to children aged 14 and older last week. The Government, however, insists that inoculation of children will not be compulsory.
Mr Ndoro said some schools have put up new learning infrastructure such as classroom blocks to allow for social distancing during learning.
“Government has been preparing for schools opening for the past three months and we are happy with what is on the ground right now,” he said.
“Schools are building new classrooms blocks, dining halls and coming up with single desks so that social distancing can be adequately implemented.
“There is also drilling of boreholes at schools that do not have running water and repairing of water reticulation systems so that there is adequate water provision.”
He said Government was advising teachers to present themselves for vaccination.
“We are also encouraging teachers to be vaccinated before they go back to school and they have heeded the call.
“We will continue encouraging vaccination and we will be working closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Care especially now that children between 14 and 17 years of age can now be vaccinated.
“Government might even set up some vaccinations centres at some school premises for their convenience.”
Mr Ndoro said schools will introduce learning strategies to help learners catch up on lost time before examinations commence.
“What had only been suspended are the face to face learning classes but there has been a lot that has been happening online.
“The Ministry’s online portals provided a lot of material which was downloaded by teachers and forwarded to learners.
“So now what is needed is to make sure that the time that is available is maximised.”
The term will run up to December 17.
National Association of School Heads president Mr Arthur Maphosa said Government needs to consider adopting a two term system.
“The pronouncement that schools re-open on Monday is most welcome as we believe schools are the safest havens to protect learners from all societal evils that include the coronavirus,” Mr Maphosa said.
“Nash suggests that examinations start on December 1, and allow (for the last time perhaps) for those spilling over to end by the first Friday of February 2022.
“This will allow us at least three full months with the learners before the examinations take place.
“It will also enable learners to go through their practical learning areas projects, which under normal circumstances could have been completed by the end of term 2.
“We then propose going forward in 2022, a semester system which will begin on January 11 to May 31 for the first term then August 15 and close on December 16, 2022.
“This calendar suggestion deliberately leaves the winter months of June and July to protect the lives of all stakeholders from the scourge of Covid-19, which seems to thrive in chilly weather.”
Zimbabwe Teachers Association(ZIMTA) secretary general Mr Goodwill Taderera appealed to Government to use part of its allocation from the International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights(SDRs) to support the education sector.
“As we enter the new term, we urge Government to prioritise public schools and institutions in providing PPEs,” he said.
“We call upon Government not to negate its duty to ensure that every citizen of Zimbabwe has access to quality public education, free of Covid-19 complications.
“We look forward to the shot in the arm that has released US$961 million as Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) and which will support social services like education and health.
“Our proposal is that part of the fund should support these areas of need.”