Conditions not yet ripe for schools re-opening: ECOZI

Conditions are not yet ripe for the reopening of schools as a lot still needs to be done, the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI) has said.

ECOZ is a membership driven organisation with a total of 54 diverse organisations working in the education sector.

These include non-governmental organisations and teachers’ unions spread across the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe.

Schools which closed on March 24 as part of government measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, will reopen in phases, with the writing classes of grade 7, Ordinary and Advanced Level having reopened Monday with some teachers reportedly not reporting for duty citing transport challenges among other woes.

The other remaining classes are set to return to school on October 26 and November 9.

However, in a statement dated 28 September, ECOZI chairperson, Dr Donald Tobaiwa, said all was not in order for the schools to reopen.

“We feel that the majority of schools are not yet fully prepared for reopening on the 28th of September 2020 and we emphatically call for their capacitation,” said Tobaiwa.

“We are concerned over the shortage of personal protective equipment and appropriate infrastructure and furniture to allow proper social distancing. We are further concerned by the shortage of infrastructure to adequately cater for learners during Phase 2 and Phase 3. We call for the government, civil society and development partners to seriously consider ways in which Phase 2 and Phase 3 can be attained without constraining the provisions of the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.”

Tobaiwa said ECOZI was further concerned by the state of preparedness of learners for the November Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) Examinations.

“We note that some learners have been accessing online and radio lessons whilst the majority have not been, yet they are going to sit for the same examinations,” he said.

“We are further concerned that learners with disabilities have not been accessing any lessons since 24 March 2020 when schools closed yet they are going to sit for examinations on the 1st of December 2020. We are worried that the remaining time to prepare learners for examinations is too short and will promote drilling of learners for the examinations rather than learning.”

He added: “We are further worried by the social media reports about schools allegedly charging exorbitant fees and we encourage the Ministry (Primary and Secondary Education) to come up with a clear statement on the issue of school fees. We bemoan the welfare of the educators citing incapacitation and we are worried that educators may not go back to school at this critical juncture. We therefore recommend that the government through the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare to address the issue of teacher welfare before schools open so as to ensure quality learning in school.”

He further appealed to the government to provide transport to teachers returning to schools.

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