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Cain Mathema summoned over schools reopening

by Staff reporter
29 Jun 2020 at 18:48hrs | Views
PARLIAMENT has summoned the minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Cain Mathema, junior MPs and the deaf community to share their views on the reopening of schools amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the Daily News reports.

This comes as the government through Mathema announced last month that schools would reopen in phases starting this month with final examinations classes.

It also comes as MPs have suggested to the contrary that the safest time to reopen schools in the country is in the summer as Covid-19 cases continue to surge.

According to Parliament's schedule of committees for this week, today the parliamentary portfolio committee on Primary and Secondary Education would receive "oral evidence from the ministry…Deaf Zimbabwe Trust and Junior Parliament on schools opening in light of the Covid-19 pandemic…"

Zimbabwe's confirmed Covid-19 cases as of yesterday afternoon stood at 567, including 142 recoveries and six deaths.

Today's evidence gathering session would be open to the public.

While debating a report that had been tabled by Primary and Secondary Education parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga on Thursday, MPs said when it comes to reopening of schools they were guided by the evidence they had gathered from teachers.

"We are being too general in our conversations. There are legal issues, social distancing, and teacher to child ratio of 1:70 at times. Let us focus on examinations, but not in winter. Let us do them in warm periods, in September or November maybe. Let us embrace e-learning and adopt it as a new norm. Let us also licence private partners who supply gadgets to the ministry which will then pay for the services," Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.

Schools, colleges, and universities have been closed since mid-March as part of the government's measures to halt the spread of Covid-19.

MPs said the committee's interactions with various stakeholders had revealed that the country was not ready for the reopening of schools considering the increase in new Covid-19 infections across the country.

"Teachers' unions made it clear that schools were not yet ready for opening. Though the ministry wanted to proceed with June exams, we should not be held to ransom by a curriculum," Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.

"All these stakeholders said we cannot proceed to reopen because of lack of basics like running water, personal protective equipment, and basic screening equipment that are needed for that and are not there."

In the report that was compiled after gathering evidence from various stakeholders, including the ministry, teachers through their various unions and the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council, the committee recommended that the government should establish a task force to look into how best schools could reopen without exposing learners and teachers to Covid-19.

Source - Daily News