Teacher unions that have consistently raised serious reservations about the education sector’s preparedness to manage the Coronavirus stand vindicated after Cabinet this week resolved to close schools lacking proper Covid-19 management equipment and capacity as well as those where Covid-19 is suspected as a means to avoid spread of the virus into communities.
The move follows a resurgence of Covid-19 in the country with Bulawayo emerging as the new epicentre for the virus amidst indications that not less than 100 pupils at John Tallach Secondary School in Ntabazinduna, Matabeleland North province, have so far tested positive for the virus.
When teacher union raised concerns about the preparedness of the severely underfunded education sector to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, their concerns were brushed aside, with the government claiming that it had availed ZWL600 million to cater for the PPEs needs of teachers and pupils. But barely a week into the third phase of the schools opening, rising cases of Covid-19 infections in schools have caused the government to ask school authorities to assess the situation on the ground with a view to keep some of the schools closed. While some schools have closed altogether, others are now asking pupils to come for only two days a week.
Addressing journalists during a post Cabinet media briefing this week, Information and Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, said government was closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation in schools.
“To ensure that schools do not become flashpoints for the spread of Covid-19, Cabinet resolved that where Covid-19 cases are suspected in schools without adequate testing facilities, these schools should be immediately closed in order to allow for testing of all pupils and only those who test negative return to school. Schools with adequate facilities may continue lessons while testing proceeds and those who test positive are excluded,” said Mutsvangwa.
In the primary and secondary education sector, learner attendance statistics stand as follows: Phase 1 (final examination classes), 51.5%; Phase 2 (Grade 6, Form 3 and Lower 6th Form), 35.3%; and Phase 3 (ECD, Grade1, 2,3,4,5 Form 1and 2), 24.6%.
As of 13 November 2020, Zimbabwe had recorded a total of 8 756 Covid-19 cases, 8090 recoveries, and 257 deaths. The national recovery rate is 92 percent. Seven thousand two hundred and ninety-six (7 296) of the Covid-19-positive cases are local transmissions. New cases for week 45 stood at 294, compared to 109 recorded in week 44.