Most teachers reported for duty across the country as the examination classes of Grade 7, Form 4 and 6 resumed face-to-face lessons yesterday at both Government and private schools.
Most boarders went back to their schools on Sunday, although a few checked in early yesterday morning.
At both urban and rural schools, most pupils in the three classes reported for lessons and Covid-19 protocols including hand sanitisation, wearing of face masks, social distancing and temperature screening were strictly observed.
The Government has trained over 63 percent of teachers on standard operating procedures, and there are plans to train support staff, such as food handlers and bus crews, to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
National Association of Primary Schools chair Mrs Cynthia Khumalo said attendance by teachers in urban areas was higher than compared to rural areas, citing the transport requirements for many rural teachers since intercity transport is exceptionally limited.
“Grade 7 pupils were excited to go back to school, but from the look of things, in towns attendance of teachers was high compared to rural areas due to transport challenges.
“It is difficult for teachers in rural areas to travel back to their workplaces using pirate taxis which are expensive compared to the banned intercity public transport which they used to rely on,” she said.
In Harare, teachers turned up at both Government and private schools, and The Herald saw the teachers conducting lessons.
At Dzivaresekwa High 1 in Harare, all was in place with staff at the main entrance screening for temperature and sanitising everyone entering the yard. Pupils were in their classrooms maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks, while each classroom had its own sanitisation bucket. Teachers were present and teaching.
At Mufakose High 2, teachers turned up for work and were seen conducting lessons.
Maranatha Group of Schools and Gillingham Primary School had high turnouts for both learners and teachers, and Covid-19 protocols were strictly followed.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said in Matabeleland South province all was well.
“Most schools had a smooth re-opening of examination classes. The turnout was pleasing, but some parents are still finalising a few issues. Gwanda High School which opened to Form 4s and Form 6s was back to business as turnout was almost 100 percent,” he said.
In Chinhoyi, schools opened on a high note with most pupils in the examination classes turning up and ready to learn. At Chinhoyi, Chemagamba and Nemakonde High Schools, pupils attended classes under strict Covid-19 guidelines.
At Nemakonde High, over 1 200 Form 4s attended classes. The school has over 4 000 students from Form One to Six. Over 200 teachers reported for duty at the school, and were all given sanitisers and face masks.
At King Solomon College, a private school in Chinhoyi, 15 out of 25 A Level pupils attended lessons.
Mashonaland West education director, Mr Gabriel Mhumha, said there was a high turnout of teachers at most schools in the province, with attendance expected to improve further.
In Masvingo, private and public schools reopened as directed by Government, with teachers reporting for duty.
When The Herald visited Dikwindi Primary and Mucheke High School in Mucheke suburb, teachers were busy with their day’s work. It was the same at Victoria Junior Primary school and Vision Academy, a private college.
Some teachers said they were raring to go, but bemoaned the short period that have before sitting for final examinations.
In Beitbridge District, most schools had between 50 and 75 percent of the pupils.
At Vhembe High in Ward 5 urban, 99 out of 189 pupils and two teachers against a staff complement of 33 turned up. Across town in Ward 1 urban at St Mary’s, three-quarters of teachers and pupils turned up.
In rural schools, some teachers were yet to arrive at their stations with the majority expected to report for duty by end of the week.
Beitbridge Districts Schools Inspector Mr Raxon Phiri said schools opened as planned and they were yet to get more reports since authorities were yet to reach all schools in the district. There are more than 16 secondary and 77 primary schools in the area.
In Marondera, lessons for examination classes started smoothly with high turnout of pupils. The Herald visited some schools in Marondera including UMAA Institute, Cherutombo and LaFontein College, where pupils and staff were strictly adhering to Covid-19 prevention measures.
UMAA Institute founder and educationist Dr Cleopas Kundiona commended Government for allowing examination classes to reopen.
La Fontaine College headmaster Mr Oswell Madya said the rate at which pupils turned up shows that parents were prepared.
We commenced our lessons smoothly and we are grateful with parents’ level of preparedness which has been evidenced by the high turnout of students, he said.
Mr Madya said the college had engaged a team of health personnel to enforce Covid-19 control measures.
In Mashonaland Central, the Provincial Education Director Mrs Naomi Chikosha said most schools started well.
She had compiled reports for seven districts except Mt Darwin, whose report was yet to be received, but said schools had put in place adequate Covid-19 prevention measures.
In the Midlands, the turnout was around 70 percent from among the pupils while headmasters who spoke to The Herald said nearly all the exam class teachers turned up.
“We have asked the heads to do register checks for the pupils and report the turn out for teachers and what we got is satisfying. We had around 70 percent turn-up from the pupils on the first day and we recorded 100 percent turn up from the teachers,” said an official from the Provincial Public Service Inspector’s office.
At Ascot High School in Gweru, officials said only one teacher did not report for duty.
“The response is very positive; we only have one staffer who did not come and we are yet to get a feedback. We hope tomorrow the staffer will be around,” said an official.
Speaking during a webinar on building resilience for the continuity of teaching and learning in emergencies yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Mrs Thumisang Thabela said: “We are grateful for the help that we have received so far in terms of ensuring that our schools are safe for learners and in training our teachers in containing Covid-19.
“We will continue surveillance so that we reduce infections at school as we lost a learner so far to Covid-19 from the infections that were recorded in more than 80 schools last time.
“Water provision remains our top priority at the moment so that learners are able to meet the World Health Organisation guidelines on hygiene.”
The ministry, which has 139 698 teachers working in 9 625 schools across the country, needs the equivalent of US$10,5 million to fund compliance, monitoring and health surveillance of learning institutions.
“The bulk of that money will go towards the distribution of water, sanitisation, hygiene supplies and essential commodities. According to the needs budget, US$4 849 411 will go towards personal protective equipment procured and its distribution,” said Mrs Thabela.
The meeting was held as part of efforts for the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Health and Child Care to have a joint operational plan for the coordinated prevention and management of Covid-19 pandemic at all learning institutions in Zimbabwe.