The government has ordered boarding schools across the country to cut down on their intake for this year to allow for social distancing among learners.
The order will come as another knock to the hundreds of boarding schools in the country which are reeling under the effects of COVID-19-induced closures and disruption of the education calendar.
The Primary and Secondary Education ministry has conveyed the new directive in memos sent to district schools inspectors and heads on Thursday as schools prepare to enrol Form-one students, after the release of the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council 2020 Grade Seven results two weeks ago.
One such memo, seen by the NewsDay Weekender, was communicated to all schools in the Midlands province by provincial education director (PED), Jameson Machimbira.
Referenced “Call to reduce 2021 boarding enrolment to comply with COVID-19 management protocol in boarding facilities in the Midlands province”, it read: “Having experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 in some boarding facilities in 2020, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has resolved to improve compliance of boarding facilities in observing WHO and the Ministry of Health and Child Care COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
“Heads are, therefore, advised to strictly adhere to the number that can be allowable in the boarding facilities when recruiting 2021 boarders. As a guide, new boarder recruits for 2021 should significantly be less than 2020 boarder recruits. To ensure compliance, officers from both the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Ministry of Health and Child Care shall move to boarding schools monitoring observance of COVID-19 guidelines and compliance to boarding capacity measures.”
Machimbira warned that non-compliant schools “shall have their boarding facilities closed and only be allowed to open after complying with set guidelines.”
Several school heads and oversight authorities in Masvingo and other provinces also confirmed receiving the new directive, which has left them in a quandary.
Contacted for comment, Education ministry deputy spokesperson Patrick Zumbo said: “Am not sure of the numbers that you are talking about. We have to check.