The phased reopening of schools after a long break caused by the need to prevent the spread of Covid-19, came full circle yesterday with classes for learners from Early Childhood Development (ECD) up to Grade Five, plus Form Ones and Twos starting classes.
Last week, learners from next year’s examination forms opened and prior to that, this year’s examination classes returned on September 26.
This is no mean task given that Covid-19 is still with us and the reopening of schools should not be interpreted to mean that we should relax controls.
Going forward, there is need for the Government, school authorities, pupils and parents to play ball or we perish.
Everyone must play their part in order for the education of our children to continue while at the same time containing the spread of the virus.
Outside that, the virus will explode in schools and at homes and everywhere else, given the nature of our education system and the sphere of influence of each school.
If the virus explodes, then the schools will be closed and the spiral effect is that the national lockdown will be reintroduced. In that case, we will have gone back to those restriction days.
We therefore must all work together to keep schools open for the continuation of learning for our children and still control of the spread of Covid-19.
We strongly believe that it is achievable. All we need is for everyone to participate in ensuring that the right things happen: social distancing, sanitising, and wearing masks among others.
Government should ensure more buses are available to ferry day scholars and those buses need to be controlled in every aspect.
It is important to note that the phased reopening was approved by Cabinet in September in three stages.
We noted that on Sunday, pupils going to boarding schools at pick-up points dotted across Harare had impressive social distancing and all were wearing masks.
But school authorities will have to keep up the pressure with a playful brigade of children, although in many cases it might be easier in schools where, after all, pupils are used to accepting instructions from teachers and prefects.
We are happy that Zupco has committed itself to upgrading operations and scheduling services so that both schoolchildren and the commuting public can continue to benefit from a steady improvement in public transport during the Covid-19 period.
We hope Zupco will stick to the schedule which we published on September 30, 2020 to notify commuters, especially learners, of the designated pick up points for our buses.
We also hope that Zupco has stuck to its promise to position monitors at these designated terminuses to ensure that order prevails as well as to keep updating the operations team on the situation on the ground.
But further efforts are needed so that pupils do not spend long hours in queues and perhaps giving schoolchildren priority, especially in the early morning, would help.
Government is still buying more buses. These need to be on the road as they arrive to provide ever better services and to also to start generating revenue needed to grow the fleet.
To date, transport has become a major concern for parents, especially day scholars.
Yes, most parents are happy that finally schools have opened. However, children depending on where they live, sometimes face transport problems.
Everyone involved should pay attention to the re-infections that have forced some countries in Europe to go back to national lockdowns, while other countries have gone for localised lockdowns. This is what happens when people relax.
When most children spend time at home, they did not wear masks and they do not practice social distancing because our homes are isolation centres themselves.
Now they have to learn to keep their masks on all day long, and in most cases without any monitoring between school and home.
But most children in public since the exam forms went back have been masked, and once again we do have to remember that while there is no formal monitoring, teachers, prefects and parents do travel, and can easily pass on names of errant children to the head.
As most schoolchildren know, it is difficult to get away with anything while in uniform.
Zupco conductors, incidentally, can be instructed to be particularly strict with children not wearing face masks.
Most seem pretty good at controlling a large batch of schoolchildren and can ensure masks remain on and horseplay remains banned.
The time to work together is now. The time to strike a balance between health issues and schooling is now. Anything outside that will be a recipe for disaster.
Let us proffer reliable and sustainable solutions so that we do not slide back to a total lockdown.