Students, headmasters, parents and health experts have welcomed the Government’s decision to prioritise the safety and welfare of stakeholders by deferring indefinitely, the reopening of schools for the first term next year.
The Government wants to ensure there is a safe reopening of the schools in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
The decision to postpone the schools’ reopening until further notice was announced yesterday following a surge in Covid-19 infections, concerns over new and more contagious variants reported in other countries as well as the threat induced by Tropical Depression Chalane.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education announced the indefinite postponement, with exceptions on the conclusion of the remaining public examinations that are set to resume on January 5, to February 5, as previously scheduled.
In separate interviews, National Association of Secondary Heads president Mr Arthur Maposa and his National Association of Primary Heads counterpart Mrs Cynthia Khumalo hailed the Government’s decision.
“It is indeed a prevention that is better than a cure decision which was taken by the Government. We applaud the ministry for this wise decision,” said Mr Maposa.
“In any case, it would give parents and guardians an opportunity to source for fees and levies after spending some on Christmas and New Year. The 4th was too soon for many and it is good they get more time to prepare,” said Mr Maposa.
“This is really good news . . . it gives teachers, learners and parents more time to prepare for the return of classes,” said Mrs Khumalo.
“There is a threat of Covid-19 and more time to prepare will help protect teachers and learners from the virus as well,” she said.
This was corroborated yesterday by Mukudzeiishe Madzivire, the 2020 Child president.
“We applaud the Government for prioritising the safety of us students especially at a time when there is a threat of a new variant. We are happy they have made a decision that puts our safety first.
“Now our appeal is to invest on e-learning, this year because of Covid-19 the need of learning from home was amplified, some urban schools managed to adapt to the new normal and we want technology to spread to rural schools as well,” said president Madzivire.
Health expert, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, said the postponement of schools’ reopening was the right decision given the threat posed by the pandemic.
“Government’s move to defer schools reopening for an indefinite period is the most sensible and most responsible decision that they have taken. Opening schools in the middle of a dangerous global pandemic was going to be an ill-advised decision which was going to cost lives.
“I am very happy this is a very good move and I would like to applaud the Government for taking this good safety step that is going to safeguard the lives of Zimbabweans,” said Professor Ngwenya.
Prof Ngwenya said the virus is mutating and more dangerous than the early days, he said the reopening of schools would have spread the virus.
In a statement released by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Mrs Tumisang Thabela, the Government had explained the decision.
“In light of the surge in Covid-19 infections and the new and more contagious variants of the disease as well as the threat posed by Chalane, Government has seen it fit to deviate from the previously announced 2021 school calendar that directed schools to open on 04 January 2021.”
“In the meantime, heads of schools should continue with preparations for the safe opening of schools and the accelerated implementation of teaching and learning activities,” said Mrs
In an interview Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said institutions falling under his purview will also not be allowed to risk learners.
“For most tertiary schools there is no learning in January. It comes in February, but the new opening dates will be discussed when we deliberate on the dates for primary and secondary education.
“The tertiary institutions as well need time to prepare and the reopening must be done in a manner that is safe,” he said.
“Tertiary education was really not an issue, the universities and colleges have set up infrastructure for e-learning which enables learning to be done in a manner compliant to Covid-19 mitigatory measures.
“Again at tertiary level we are dealing with adults who know how to behave,” said Prof Murwira.
In a snap survey most parents commended the decision to defer the resumption of classes. They said it was going to be a very difficult decision to allow their children to attend lessons at a time the threat of the pandemic and the cyclone is hovering perilously.