THE government ordered schools closure when the third wave of the virulent Covid-19 pandemic hit the country at the onset of winter.
As part of the many measures put in place to try and contain the spread of the disease, the government also barred holiday lessons and any form of face to face learning.
As a backup plan, the government introduced online and radio lectures but the digital divide and data costs have been the biggest setback. On the other hand, teachers who for years have complained of poor salaries have seen an opportunity of making a killing by conducting extra lessons.
However, an investigation by this publication this week proved that many students have been attending private face to face lessons as both parents and teachers continue to secretly collude to conduct illegal lessons.
To make matters worse, in these secret spots where the lessons are taking place, Covid-19 regulations such as mask-wearing, use of sanitisers and social distancing are barely followed, exposing the children and the teachers themselves to the pandemic.
So bad is the situation that in some instances about 25 kids can be found crammed in one room.
Further investigations revealed that these teachers charge their students using forex normally between US$10 and US$20 per month.
“I go to lessons every day and the hand sanitiser is not available, my teacher said she cannot afford to sanitize us every day. There is no thermometer to check the body temperature. Our teacher only advised us that when we are not well we must not attend the extra lessons. Some of our colleagues come for the lessons with minor flu but they are discouraged to do that,” said one Grade 7 pupil.
Another ‘A’ Level student from Pumula North suburb who spoke to this publication said he is aware of the deadly virus but he has no option because his parents want him to go for extra lessons.
“It is now frightening me. People are dying every day, one of our close relatives recently passed on due to Covid-19. However, if you are a child you cannot oppose what your parents tell you to do. I think online learning is good because you do not mingle with everyone but my mother is against the idea.
“The teacher wants the money to deliver the lessons instead of him advising our parents that this is not the time for physical learning everything has to be virtual until the situation improves but he cannot do that because he believes he makes more money by meeting us at his small room every day.” said the student
Beauty Moyo, a parent from Hwange said face to face learning is cheaper and effective to children despite the dangers of the Coronavirus.
“It is hard because the virus is spreading and killing people every day but that does not mean education of our children has to stop. Also, life has to go on hence the future of kids is shaped by the education they acquire.
CITE caught up with one of the schools Inspectors of Matabeleland South who said extra lessons can lead to spread of Coronavirus.
“Learners are keen to learn and the exams are just around the corner and they define their future hence Covid-19 is spreading and is real. Learners are in a difficult situation. The best way forward is following World Health Organisation regulations. Extra lessons in homes are super-spreaders of Covid-19, the environment used is not conducive and there is no social distancing, no sanitiser the places are usually crowded.” said schools inspector.
Health expert Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said: “Extra lessons are discouraged because they can lead to high infections and Covid-19 is a terrible disease.”
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said extra lessons remain illegal.
He further explained that parents should not send children for face to face learning.
“The private lessons have been identified as a monster that is contributing to the spread of Covid-19 and I would like to encourage all parents and guardians to avoid sending their children for private lessons at this might spell disaster,” he explained
Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said the blame on extra lessons must not be put on teachers.
“The teachers are being approached by parents for extra lessons hence the environment for that is not conducive. The extra lessons have not yet yielded positive results yet hence it’s compromising the health of the pupils.
“The teacher and the parents are breaking the law by engaging in physical learning because there is no one who’s monitoring that Covid-19 regulations are observed hence the adequate material used at home schools might not be enough. The anxiety of parents and learners need to be addressed so that the learner’s health is not put in danger,” said Ndlovu.