As schools opened Monday for the remaining classes after a long hiatus, parents and children showed feelings of excitement and others confusion, as they had to display a readiness to comply with Covid-19 safety regulations set by the government.
Schools closed on December 18 after briefly opening last year and were set to re-open on January 4, 2021 before the re-opening was indefinitely postponed following a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Examination classes commenced lessons last week on March 15, 2021 while the rest of learners resumed this Tuesday.
Early morning, learners were seen wearing their masks to demonstrate their awareness about Covid-19 while parents also fussed over their young children, especially those starting Grade One.
Authorities have also come up with guidelines on how to prevent any possible spread of Covid-19, while the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education said classes must not have more than 35 pupils.
This will see some schools alternating or rotating classes, if they have huge enrolments.
But examination classes (Grade Seven, Form Four and Form Six) are required to attend school daily to catch up on lost time.
Health experts have also advised parents and teachers to make sure they encourage children to adhere to the safety regulations in order to prevent a spike.
Acting Chief Executive Officer for Mpilo Central Hospital, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, said as an Covid-19 health advocate, schools had to prioritise safety and prevention.
“I’m against schools opening because what is happening is children have become vectors. A vector is something that moves the disease. School children will move the diseases as they attend school. Kombis and buses will be full once again and school children may infect teachers, go home and infect the parents. This happened in South Africa,” he said.
Prof Ngwenya said he would have preferred a situation where schools remained closed until the threat of Covid was minimal.
“In 1977, during the liberation struggle, some of us sat for four years without going to school. Why sacrifice lives for someone who can learn later? Here I am yet in 1977, I stayed for four years without schooling. Let’s not sacrifice our lives for something which we can wait. This is not a normal situation, it’s abnormal. March 18, half a million people across the globe were infected with Covid-19, that’s why I prioritise safety and prevention at all costs,” said the health expert.
President of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Takavafira Zhou, lamented that the government had not prioritised the safety of teachers and pupils.
“There has been no prioritisation of the health and safety of teachers, pupils, ancillary staff with students, ancillary staff and a few teachers that have reported for work. Some are congregating in schools without testing for Covid-19, running water, masks and sanitisers,” he said.
Zhou noted that teachers under the Federation of Zimbabwe Education Unions had notified the Public Service Commission, the president, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education and the education ministry that their members would not be reporting for work “until their legitimate grievances over salaries, health and safety are addressed.”