Public schools open for the examination classes today with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education confirming that all systems are in place for a successful reopening.
The three examination classes — Grade 7, Form 4 and Upper Sixth — open today. In four weeks time, on October 26, next year’s examination classes — Grade 6, Form 3 and Lower Sixth or Form 5 — open in the second phase and a fortnight after that, on November 9, everyone else goes back to school — ECD A and B, Grades 1 to 5 and Forms 1 and 2.
Schools were closed early in March as Government adopted a pre-cautionary measure to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and remained closed for the second term. Of the six months since schools closed almost half that time were the first two sets of school holidays.
President Mnangagwa on Friday said pupils and students would be safe when schools and colleges reopen today.
In his remarks during a virtual meeting of the Junior Cabinet, the President commended pupils for their endurance and discipline during the nearly seven months when schools were closed.
“Government has put in place concrete interventions through the Ministries of Primary and Secondary Education and also of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development to ensure that learners return to safe and hygienic schools or college environments. I call upon all learners and teachers who are going back to schools, tertiary and university facilities to be careful and to abide by the stipulated requirements which help prevent Covid-19,” said the President.
Two weeks ago private schools opened and the ministry said everything was going on well in these schools, which normally offer Cambridge examinations and so have earlier examination dates, and there were no challenges.
While school classes will reopen in three phases, there will be smaller numbers of pupils in each class, more teachers and other health-related measures so that children can resume education without the risk of a spike in Covid-19 infections.
Yesterday parents were doing last minute preparations and those with children at boarding schools were taking their children to school or taking them to the buses. At the Civic Centre in Harare, buses were ferrying boarders to school.
Parents indicated that they were relieved that their children were now going back to school and most of them expressed confidence that their children will be safe if the schools continue to follow the proper health regulations.
Most parents said they had provided masks and sanitisers for their children.
Others, however, complained that they were being forced to buy masks at school and students were not allowed to bring masks from home, the schools either claiming they had to ensure masks were of a certain standard or because they wanted “school uniform” masks.
Other parents complained that schools had increased fees to very high levels, with schools claiming they had to cope with the price rises in the first six months of the year, between January and June, after which prices stabilised.
A Harare parent, Mr Webster Chimusasa said he was confident his child was ready for the examinations considering that only three months of learning had been lost.
“The other three months were holidays. I am happy schools are re-opening and as parents we have done our best to ensure our kids are safe from Covid-19. We have provided masks and sanitisers.
“I expected to see health officials here at the Civic Centre to inspect if the health regulations were being observed as students are going back to school. I have seen some students not wearing masks,” he said.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema yesterday said everything was in place for the opening of the public schools.
He had received reports and had also toured some schools in Chivi and Matabeleland South to assess preparedness and from what he saw, schools were prepared for the opening.
“Government is going to provide personal protection equipment. I have not received reports of schools selling masks.
“Some schools have been manufacturing sanitisers and masks. We are also working with NatPharm on the provisions of face masks. Some non-governmental organisations, local companies and parents have also donated personal protection equipment,” he said.
“We have to follow the WHO guidelines. Government has gone out of its way to provide PPEs to schools to ensure learners, teachers and non-teaching staff are safe,” he said.
Minister Mathema said the issue of social distancing had been dealt with and those classes which had too many students will be halved to ensure social distancing rules can be kept.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary Mr Raymond Majongwe yesterday said schools should not force parents to buy masks from the institutions.
“Some parents had already prepared PPEs for their children and it becomes expensive to buy those being sold at school. Schools should allow students to bring masks from home.
“There are dangers that if children use uniform masks some may end up stealing from each other or exchanging and this is a health risk.
People should not take advantage of Covid-19 to rip off parents of their money,” he said.