Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
SCHOOLS reopen today for the second term with the Primary and Secondary Ministry declaring zero tolerance to zero pass rates in schools.
For the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, the opening day for schools has not been disrupted by the pandemic.
In the past Government had to defer the schools opening day due the spike in Covid-19 infections but this term has not been affected.
It was a hive of activity in Bulawayo yesterday as pupils from different boarding institutions returned to their respective schools.
Parents and guardians welcomed the return to normalcy in the education sector saying having their children at home was costing them more as they had to hire private tutors to ensure that their children do not lose out on their studies.
Government has also scrapped the decongestion exercise policy which resulted in some pupils not attending classes on a daily basis in some schools.
Primary and Secondary Education Ministry director of communication and advocacy Mr Taungana Ndoro said the handling of Covid-19 in schools in the past two years has taught the education sector how to survive with the pandemic.
“We have now mastered how to live with 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 those 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.”
Mr Ndoro said the drive towards ending zero pass rate will be achieved gradually, although he did not give the actual deadline when it will be achieved.
He said the ministry has taken cognisance that educated learners will be key towards achieving vision 2030.
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.
He said more importantly through the pandemic the country understands that it can have a technology driven education.
“But behind that technology must be a teacher who is well supported. The lessons that we are learning is that there must be a lot of investment regarding the issue of technology mediated education. It cannot happen on its own and it cannot be a mystery that technology alone can handle the classroom. We are saying behind good technology there is a good teacher who has been equipped and learners have been provided with sufficient technological equipment to support their education,” he said.
Parents and guardians who spoke to a Chronicle news crew yesterday as they were seeing off their children said financial challenges affected their planning.
Mr Norman Kangai whose children learn at Marist Brothers said the return to a normal calendar in school was important for the children to catch up on lost time.
“It’s good for our children because they need to push, we are very comfortable about the arrangement. However, we are calling on the responsible authorities to maintain and adhere to Covid-19 prevention measures,” said Mr Kangai.
He said the clashing of the pupils returning to school with the holiday, however, affected their smooth preparations.
Other parents shared Mr Kangai’s sentiments as some of them had applied for bank loans which they expected to have matured by the start of normal business today.
Mr Gift Tshuma, with children at Solusi High School bemoaned school fees increase saying it affected their planning.
He said the return of a normal school calendar was going to bring confidence to the education sector.
“The education standards were falling but now that we are returning to the normal school calendar that is significant. As a result of the disruptions to education we were forced to hire private tutors for our children. So it was becoming expensive as you needed different tutors for different grades and subjects for those in secondary school,” he said.
Another parent who preferred not to be named said the major concern is that while school fees have increased, salaries were stagnant.
“I’m happy that schools are reopening but I’m concerned with the school fees hike. School fees cost about 90 000 but some of us may be civil servants so it is difficult to pay the fees considering that we have not received a pay rise,” said the parent.