Fidelis Munyoro and Mukudzei Chingwere
All children will be back at school today, and most college and university students, with the return of examination classes a week ago testing successfully the measures put in place across the education system to minimise risk of Covid-19 infection and showing that all schools were prepared and able to apply these measures.
While pupils have been trying to learn by distance education methods, learners were excited to go back to their old ways of learning with most of them saying distance learning had its own challenges, but face-to-face meeting with teachers is quite easy and learners have better attentiveness.
“It is quite exciting that am returning to school after a long lay off,” said Takashinga Gamanya, a Form Three pupil at Mazowe High.
“We had virtual learning during all this time. To me it’s not that effective as I ended up dissolving watching the computer and lose concentration as a lot of things occur in the comfort of the home.
“I prefer face-to-face meeting with teachers. Your concentration does not drift away. I am really excited.”
Another learner Takunda Nadolo concurred that online lessons do not have the actual ambiance needed to psych up learners than what the teachers do during face-to-face learning in a classroom with other learners.
“Online lessons end up being sluggish. Am excited being among my peers. Now the learning has begun and it’s good that way,” said Nadolo who also plays soccer for his school as a left winger.
Government re-opened schools starting last week, after a careful assessment of the benefits and risks across education, public health and socio-economic factors, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, though in the local context.
Adequate measures informed by WHO guidelines have been put in place to ensure all learners return to schools today without risking a spike in Covid-19 infections.
The resumption of the usual educational model was also boosted by teachers who have returned to work following assurance by the Government of its commitment to prioritise their welfare.
Government says it is encouraged by the incident-free return to customary lessons last week and is expecting a continuation in adherence to the prescribed protocols.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema yesterday thanked stakeholders including teachers, parents and learners for adapting to the normal compulsory safety protocols.
“The education sector has adjusted to the new normal. Last week we resumed lessons for examination classes without any problem and we expect the same this week with the rest of the classes.
“Teachers who were supposed to report for duty last week, reported. I want to commend parents, learners and teachers for the way they have managed the resumption of classes under the circumstances,” said Minister Mathema.
His ministry was closely following the procedures outlined by their Health and Child Care counterparts.
“The measures prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care for a safe resumption of classes are now in place and we are ready for the resumption of classes. Everyone is ready and we expect a safe resumption of classes tomorrow (today) as some learners have started going to school, joining those who resumed their lessons last week,” he said.
School heads said they were not expecting any major challenges handling the major block of returning and new pupils.
National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) president Mr Arthur Maphosa said it was all systems go.
“We are prepared to receive more students back to school. Last week we resumed classes without any major challenges and we expect the same when everyone returns to school.
“Some schools however, still have challenges in procuring adequate personal protective equipment and we still need assistance in that regard,” said Mr Maphosa.
National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH) president Mrs Cynthia Khumalo said the primary schools were ready to welcome every child back to school.
“We are ready to welcome everyone back to school, and a return to the standard mode of instruction. However, there are still challenges regarding social distancing protocols in some schools which were doing hot seating.
“But we are working on that to make sure that everyone is compliant to the regulations. We have broken classes and we will not risk the safety of learners” she said.
To ensure social distancing, classes will be broken into smaller groups handled by additional teachers recently employed by the Government, with another batch of 3 000 new teachers expected soon to ensure that there are enough teachers for the extra classes required.