Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
TEACHERS’ unions have commended Government for delaying the reopening of schools following an increase in Covid-19 cases and called on the education ministry to strengthen distance learning.
Schools were expected to reopen next Monday for the second term of the year but a surge in Covid-19 infections resulted in Cabinet on Tuesday deferring schools opening by two weeks.
Government said the reopening of schools will be determined by an assessment that will be made at the end of the period.
Teachers’ unions yesterday welcomed the decision noting that learning institutions could be virus super spreaders.
National Association of Secondary Schools president Mr Arthur Maphosa said Cabinet decision was timely as there were already concerns among educators over the safe reopening of schools.
“There could not have been a better decision that the Government could have taken as a result of the recent spike in cases. We observe that some of our pupils are coming from districts that have been declared Covid-19 hotspots. Others are coming from areas that have been placed on localised lockdown,” said Mr Maphosa.
“The reopening of schools could have seen learners travelling back to their learning institutions and this could have become a super spreader of the virus. Hence, we applaud the Government’s decision to postpone the reopening of schools.”
He said there is, however, an urgent need to strengthen distance learning as most learners are not covered.
“However, the online learning measures are seriously restricted to a few as most of the pupils live in rural areas where there are access challenges. Therefore, we hope that when schools reopen Government will come up with a catchup strategy which will help pupils cover the gap for the lost time. We need a serious strategy that targets examination classes as most of them did not cover much ground last year,” he said.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said it was plausible for the country to be science-led in dealing with Covid-19.
He said the country should also ramp up efforts towards vaccinating 60 percent of the population for it to return to normalcy.
“Education cannot wait, the country is competing with other countries to produce the best human resources and also to create an opportunity for economic development. So when we shut down education, we are delaying the future and that must not be our mode of operation in response to the pandemic,” he said.
“While it is plausible that we are advised by science and statistics of the dangers of the pandemic, we must plan to mitigate those dangers.
One way would be for the country to vaccinate educators and plead with every educator to receive the campaign. Because if we get vaccinated, we will be assisting the country towards achieving herd immunity.”
He said the delay in reopening of schools was affecting full implementation of the competence-based curriculum which has a continuous assessment component.
Educators have lobbied Government to shelve the continuous assessment component of examining learners saying it has been jeopardised by Covid-19 lockdowns where schools were closed for long periods.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communication and advocacy Mr Taungana Ndoro said in view of the deferred reopening of schools, learners should utilise distance learning materials accessible on the Ministrywebsite https://mopsezw.learningpassport.unicef.org/.
He said they should also utilise radio and television lessons being rolled out by the Ministry. — @nqotshili