The Sunday News
Gabriel Masvora, Bruce Ndlovu and Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matut, Sunday News Reporters
THE Government is in the process of recruiting 6 000 teachers to cover for trimmed classes that have arisen due to health guidelines that were put to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most public schools open tomorrow after Cabinet approved a three-phased reopening of schools that will see all learners including non-examination classes returning to school by November. Under Phase One, the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) sitting Grade Seven, Form Four and Form Six classes will open tomorrow.
Phase Two will open on 26 October and will involve Grade Six, Form Three and Form Five while Phase Three will open on 9 November covering the rest of the learners including ECD-A, ECD-B, Grade One, Two, Three, Four, Five and then Form One and Two. Schools reopened on 14 September for Cambridge sitting examination classes and no Covid-19 incident has been reported so far.
Before schools closed at the end of March some classes had more than 50 pupils but according to the Standard Operating Procedure for the Prevention and Management of Covid-19, drafted by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, a standard sized classroom must not accommodate more than 35 learners.
The learners must also be seated a metre apart in the classroom.
“We are recruiting about 6 000 teachers starting this term to cover for the workload which is coming with the trimming of classes. We have around 9 000 schools in the country so we need the teachers to take the extra classes that will be created,” Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communications and advocacy, Mr Taungana Ndoro told Sunday News by telephone yesterday.
On the issue of Term Two fees which some schools had been demanding, he said Government has scrapped fees “because in the first place there was no Term Two to talk about.” He said: “School authorities must follow Government directives. The official school calendar was Term One and this one where schools are opening tomorrow. So, there was no Term Two in the first place, and the Government position is that no school must therefore demand fees for a term that was not announced and approved by Government.”
Mr Ndoro, however, said parents and guardians who owe fees for Term One must pay. On this term, he said school authorities and parents must meet and agree on costs and then forward their agreed positions to the ministry for approval.
“There is a procedure that needs to be followed before fees are increased. The ministry only deals with an agreed position from the school and the parents. So, what comes before the ministry for approval is a position that would have been agreed between the parents and the school. Only then can they bring it to the ministry for consideration. So, we are saying it is high time that schools and parents settle on one agreed position,” he said.
Speaking to our Harare Bureau, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said Government had adopted extraordinary measures to allow students to proceed to the next grades in order to facilitate the smooth movement of the education system.
“There will be strategies this year and next year like suspension of sports, introduction of weekend classes and crush programmes that will be put in place to ensure that the students catch up with time that was lost,” said Minister Mathema.
Examinations for all the other grades, said Minister Mathema, will be in December to ensure schools open normally in January 2021.
Ordinary level and Advanced level pupils will also write final examinations in December, with some papers expected to spill over to January.
“Schools will close in December for everyone except for the Zimsec examination classes that will have papers that overlap to next year,” he said.
Schools are also making progress in meeting the standard guidelines agreed to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Edgar Moyo said that Personal Protective Equipement (PPE) and other necessities had been distributed to schools around the country. The Government has set aside $600 million to be distributed to schools so as to improve health and safety standards when schools open.
“I cannot speak on a case to case basis for every school but the message that we have from head office is that delivery of PPE has been made to the provinces. I have been in touch with a few school heads from around the country and they have been telling me that they have received messages telling them to go and get the PPE at collection points,” said Deputy Minister Moyo.
Apart from those that are coming from Government, some schools have been making their own material and then submit invoices to Government for payment. In Matabeleland South, acting provincial education director, Mr Lifias Masukume said schools in the province have received a significant amount of resources from Government and other partners to prepare for re-opening. He said some schools in the province had also gone further to manufacture their own PPE.
“Our schools have done a lot to prepare for re-opening on Monday and I can safely say we are on the right track. Schools have done all the necessary requirements which don’t require funds such as putting down markings for social distancing, putting up information, education and communication material among others. Some schools also went further to manufacture their own face masks. Schools in all districts have also started receiving PPEs and sanitisers which Government had promised to provide. I have moved around a number of schools and the distribution process is underway. A number of partners have also assisted schools with PPEs, sanitisers and other resources. Most of our schools are now in a position to re-open and observe Covid-19 regulations. Over the weekend we will make a follow-up on schools to see where we will be having shortages and how they can be addressed,” he said.
Mr Masukume said infrared thermometers were, however, in a short supply. He said all schools in the province have been linked with their nearest clinics and hospitals to ensure that they access resources in worst scenarios where there were shortages. He assured parents and teachers that the province had made significant efforts to ensure that all schools met the necessary requirements to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Bulawayo’s provincial education director Mrs Olicah Kaira, referred all questions about the level of preparedness of Bulawayo schools to the Ministry. However, schools contacted said they were ready to resume lessons. According to the Standard Operating Procedures for the Prevention and Management of Covid-19, drafted by the Government, schools must among other things have an infra-red thermometer, handwashing stations at the entrance and liquid soap in stock. In addition, pupils and teachers must have face masks, the school must have a valid disinfection certificate from the Environment Health Department. Schools must also have temporary isolation holding bays to accommodate those with fever while waiting for health experts.