All systems go as schools open





It is all systems go for the opening of the schools second term today.

Yesterday, school buses picked up boarding learners from their designated pick-up points.

The opening of the schools comes after Government has reintroduced a five-day learning week for all learners to maximise time.

Zimbabwe’s school calendar was disrupted by Covid-19, which caused the introduction of several measures to curb the spread of the disease, including alternating classes for schools with no capacity to properly decongest classrooms.

This saw learners in such schools attending classes at least three days per week.

Yesterday, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Mr Taungana Ndoro said all systems were in place for the resumption of classes.

“Everything is now in place for the opening of schools for the second term. Boarders went back to school today (yesterday) and day scholars will begin classes tomorrow (today),” said Mr Ndoro.

“We now have a five-day school week as we are no longer alternating classes, but we will still be adhering to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to make sure that we have a safe environment for our learners. 

“Since we have put in place the SOPs and adopted the World Health Organisation recommended protocols as well as the vaccination of children aged 12 years and above, this allows us to have a normal five-day week for all learners.”

Mr Ndoro said the Government wanted to ensure that learners catch up with studies and make up for the time lost during the national lockdowns that disrupted the school calendar.

SOPs are minimum terms of operation introduced last year to ensure all schools operate in a safe environment without risking a spike in new infections.

They prohibited sporting activities, hugs, handshakes and sharing of desks in schools, while break and lunch times were staggered to prevent crowding.

The vaccination of children aged 12 years and above is expected to increase protection against Covid-19 in most secondary school learners and some in primary school.

Mr Ndoro pleaded with parents who had not given consent for their children to be vaccinated to ensure that their children get their first jab.

“The second vaccination blitz has started and we urge all parents whose children did not get vaccinated last term to give consent for their children to get the shot. 

“This will help us to minimise the spread of Covid-19 in schools particularly as we are going into the winter season,” he said.

The expanded vaccination blitz was launched on March 21 and is being conducted in two phases with vaccinations taking place in both public and private health facilities, schools, workplaces, markets and churches as well as at outreach points across the country.

The second phase started yesterday and will run until May 15.

Besides the Covid-19-related safety measures put in place by the Government, Mr Ndoro said Government was also aware that some parents were facing problems in paying tuition fees for their children due to economic challenges.

“For day scholars, we do not expect any school to send away learners for non-payment of fees, but schools should allow parents to make payment plans. 

“But we also expect cooperation from the parents. When they have made a plan, they should honour it and make payments. However, parents should understand that boarding school is a luxury and they cannot take their children to school without paying school fees. 

“Boarding schools need the money to be able to provide food and other basic amenities for the learners. So we want to encourage parents to pay school fees or at least come to an agreement with the school on a payment plan, which they should also pay so that schools can continue to operate and take care of learners,” said Mr Ndoro.

He also advised schools that are still increasing tuition fees without consultation with parents or approval from the ministry to go through the proper procedures to review school fees. 

Mr Taungana Ndoro said the handling of Covid-19 in schools in the past two years had taught the education sector how to survive with the pandemic. 

“We have now mastered how to live with the Covid-19 because we have been implementing standard operating procedures, we are now going back to a five-day week and we are going to catch up on all lost time. It is very good for the education fraternity because we need to catch up on all lost education. Those who have not been in school are encouraged to come back to school so that we are able to contribute to the socio-economic development of our nation,” said Mr Ndoro. 

“Covid-19 had actually taken us back but it made us learn a few things and now we have learnt that we can learn online and digital learning. We now conduct face-to-face learning and WhatsApp learning. So, we have a number of skills that we have gained from the experiences with Covid-19. Going forward, we really would like all our learners to prepare and be able to concentrate fully so that they are able to write their examinations come end of the year.” 

He said as schools reopen, the education sector should tackle the issue of zero pass rates recorded in some schools, particularly in rural areas. 

“We also need to increase our pass rate, in fact our vision as the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is that we are going to have a zero tolerance to zero percent pass rate in any school. It means that now we can go towards that trajectory that as a ministry we provide quality, relevant and wholesome education which makes sure that all our learners pass and there is no school whatsoever that records zero pass rates,” he said. 

“It’s all hands on deck from the headquarters, to provincial offices, district offices including our school heads to say we need to close this gap.” 

Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu welcomed the uninterrupted reopening of schools. 

“The opening is good in the sense that we are going to see children having a full tutorial. The encouragement is that as much as possible children should have full classes as opposed to half classes and alternating.  This means that we have also contained the plague of the Covid-19 virus which is a positive development,” said Dr Ndlovu. – Herald