The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Reporter
THE Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has started channelling the $350 million it received from Treasury to acquire more than four million face masks among other materials needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when schools open on 28 July.
Zimbabwe will open doors to schools to welcome examination classes — Grade Seven, Form Four and Form Six — more than three months after schools closed in March as part of efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19. This is part of a phased approach towards opening of schools that will see other classes opening in phases.
Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Edgar Moyo told Sunday News yesterday that individual schools will not buy the face masks but they will be provided by the Government. Some schools are already making the masks but Cde Moyo said Government will buy the masks from the schools.
“Some circles have claimed that we are imploring schools to produce their own face masks which is far from the truth. All we are saying is that these schools produce the face masks then we purchase from them, so the schools can get money to fund their individual projects. As you might know the ministry got $350 million from Treasury a couple of weeks ago, which is the money that is being used to make all these procurements ahead of this phased reopening of schools. Yes, we are not as 100 percent ready as we would want but it’s an ongoing process,” said the Deputy Minister.
It is estimated that about 4,6 million children in Zimbabwe are at school. Cde Moyo said the ministry was also in the process of training teachers on Covid-19 awareness as guided by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“We are currently holding workshops around the country where we are training teachers on a number of Covid-19 related issues, these inclusive of screening procedures, the creation of a safe environment for everybody and issues on how best to handle people who are seen to be exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms. On the ground our officials are also busy with the procurement of sanitisers, disinfectants and face masks where we are also working in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology which is producing some of these key preventive items,” said Deputy Minister Moyo.
Teachers’ unions have, however, said despite the Government’s position on preparations being put in place for the reopening of schools they were maintaining a wait and see approach noting that they were insisting that more measures be implemented in light of the surge in infections being experienced in the country.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said while they were supporting the phased reopening approach their worry was the provision of a safe operational environment for both teachers and pupils.
“At the moment we feel there has been the skipping of key checkpoints, which is rather dangerous because we will be just opening schools just for the sake of opening. What we now need the ministry to do is assure the nation by suggesting and telling us the measures that are now in place which are better off than what is occurring with the June Zimsec examinations,” said Dr Ndlovu.
He said their members were apprehensive on the conditions being put in place revealing that while they had not engaged the ministry on their position since the start of the June examinations, they would soon be approaching Government so as to map a way forward.
“What I must emphasise is that we are not saying let’s not go back to school, we are saying let’s go back to school with the satisfactory conditions that mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic as guided by international best practice. Further, I think we have to improve in the relationship between unions and the ministry officials so that the suspicion that we are putting spanners in the education system is dispelled and it must be realised that both of us want the same thing, that is the growth of the education sector,” said Dr Ndlovu.
According to the guidelines set up by the Government for schools to open, authorities must ensure the availability of face masks, sanitisers, infrared thermometers, liquid soaps, disinfectants, gloves, hand washing stations within the school premises, hand washing buckets for every class, gowns for school health co-ordinators, holding bays for unwell persons and information education communication materials.
They should also appoint trained school health co-ordinators before re-opening, conduct Covid-19 awareness programmes for everyone in the school about prevention, schedule regular cleaning of the school environment daily, including toilets, with water and soap.
Toilets for both staff and learners should be cleaned and disinfected three times a day and every classroom should have a bin for waste disposal and such waste should be disposed of by burning or burying daily while classes should not accommodate more than 35 pupils.