GOVERNMENT has availed $500 million to schools for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and infrastructure such as building of additional classrooms and drilling of boreholes as pupils start returning to class today.
Schools open today for examination classes and the rest will resume classes on September 6.
In an interview yesterday, the Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Edgar Moyo said he conducted a tour across several schools and found them well prepared for reopening.
He said exam classes will be attending school every day while the others will alternate days of attendance. Deputy Minister Moyo said as part of national strategies to decongest classrooms and ensure physical distancing, they had approached some organisations that have tents to assist schools.
He said he was yet to get an update on how many schools have received the tents.
“Preparedness is an ongoing thing and we are happy with preparedness so far. Key PPEs in schools range from masks, sanitisers and disinfectants and other infrastructural considerations such as availability of classrooms and other amenities such as water.
When we look at masks it’s a tall order to supply masks for all 4,7 million pupils we have in schools. We are advising parents to provide reusable masks for learners. If about 80 percent of learners can afford to bring masks, then schools will assist the remaining ones who are less advantaged. Government has availed $500 million to ensure that schools have necessary resources when they open,” he said.
“Most sanitisers have been bought and delivered to some schools. However, procurement is an ongoing process. We visited a number of schools in order to assess the level of preparedness and all had disinfectants and sanitisers or washing soap. What is now outstanding are the masks which we hope that parents will provide for most children.”
Deputy Minister Moyo said learning space remained a problem and schools have been instructed to continue with hot seating in order to decongest classes.
Deputy Minister Moyo said while a concern has been raised on whether all teachers had been vaccinated, they could not be coerced as vaccination was at the moment being done voluntarily. He said teachers have however been urged to get vaccinated.
“Government policy at the moment is that vaccination is voluntary and all we can do is encourage them to get vaccinated but we can’t force them. We appeal to the Ministry of Health to have a dedicated programme to vaccinate teachers and eligible students. Eventually all teachers will get vaccinated because there will come at time when parents won’t want their children to be taught by teachers that are not vaccinated,” he said.
Last week Government said intercity travel would be allowed for the period when pupils would be going back to school.
Long distance public bus operators yesterday said about 90 percent of bus crews have been vaccinated to limit the spread of the virus while transporting learners.
Coach and Bus Operators Association (CBOA) chief executive officer Mr Aleck Kautsiro said the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) prescribed by Government last year in September where operators are compelled to first register with the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development for strict compliance with World Health Organisation guidelines and Covid-19 regulations were still in place.
“There are enough buses to carry learners as instructed by Government and we all know what is required of us as operators in terms of standards. We have been encouraging operators to make sure crews and staff are vaccinated and by April, 60 percent had been inoculated and by now over 90 percent have been fully vaccinated,” he said.
Extra City Bus managing director Mr David Masimira said the company which operates on the Harare-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls route had deployed 10 buses while fares remain unchanged at US$10 between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls or Bulawayo and Harare.
Pirate transporters have been charging US$30 for the same trip taking advantage of absence of public transport.
“First and foremost, our concern is safety and health hence all our crews have been vaccinated. In terms of the fleet, our buses are still in shape as we took the lockdown as an opportunity to service them. We haven’t put the entire fleet but deployed 10 units on the Bulawayo-Harare and Bulawayo-Victoria Falls routes and primarily we will be transporting schoolchildren as instructed. This will include teachers and other staff involved in schools and we have made provision that all buses will be disinfected after every trip while other personal protective equipment has been put in place,” said Mr Masimira.
Extra City also has 10 buses that are operating under the Zupco franchise in Hwange, Lupane, Chivhu and Harare, Mr Masimira said.
Meanwhile, Bulawayo’s city hall was yesterday packed with school buses to transport boarding school pupils.
Some learners told Chronicle that they were excited about going back to school after a long break.
“I am very happy to be going back to school after the long holiday. Although we were doing online lessons, physical lessons are best preferred as they create a better interaction process with our teachers. Sometimes you omit certain things that you wish to understand because you don’t know how best you can do so through the phone,” said Ayanda Mlotshwa a learner from Tsholotsho High School.
Allan Nzimande, a learner from Neman Adventist High School said he could not access other study materials due to data challenges, thus welcomed the resumption of face-to-face lessons.
“As much as online learning covered the gap of being away from school, it also became a barrier to accessing other learning material as internet tariffs are too high. I had to choose how many voice notes I downloaded in a day, but on the other hand it was inconvenient because you do not know what you have missed. So today I am happy to be going back to school as I will not miss anything,” said Allan.
In the Midlands province, it was a hive of activity at high schools such as Thornhill, Chaplin, Anderson, Regina Mundi and Fletcher in Gweru, Shungu High School in Kwekwe, Loreto High School in Silobela as pupils checked in for classes which commence today.
The pupils were observing social distancing and were putting on face masks in line with the Covid-19 regulations to mitigate against the spread of the virus.
“I am glad to be back so that I write my O-Level and look ahead. Staying at home had been a nightmare knowing that I need to compete this level this year,” said a pupil at Regina Mundi High School, Alice Mutero.