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Govt yet to decide on school calendar

by Staff reporter
02 Jul 2020 at 18:30hrs | Views
THE government is yet to decide on the school calendar despite that primary and secondary schools are reopening this month.

This comes as schools were forced to close early in March as the government put in place lockdown measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

It also comes as the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) examinations for June commenced this week, while the government has announced a phased reopening of schools starting on July 28, notwithstanding strong resistance from various stakeholders, including teachers, who feel that the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines were yet to be met.

This is despite the fact that the country's cumulative confirmed Covid-19 cases as at June 30 stood at 591 cases, including 162 recoveries and seven deaths.

Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema told the Daily News yesterday that the government was not clear about what the school calendar would look like if the second term were to start in July when under normal circumstances it should be coming to an end.

 "We are going to plan according to the trend of Covid-19. Nobody knows what will happen so how do you expect us to tell what will happen in the future? Yes, the people want to know, but you and I are some of the people who want to know.  Nobody invited Covid-19, it is all over the world and schools were closed all over," Mathema said.

The country's normal school calendar has three, four-month terms in which the fourth month is a holiday.
This year's first term was supposed to end in April with the second term starting in May and ending in August, while the third and final term was set to start in September and end in December.

This comes as MPs have suggested that the safest time to reopen schools as Covid-19 cases continue to surge in the country is in the summer- which also means that the second term begins when the third term is supposed to commence.

Debating a report tabled by Primary and Secondary Education parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga after her presentation on whether schools should reopen any time soon for the second term on Thursday, MPs said they were guided by the evidence they 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 license 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 the 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  Zimsec, the committee recommended that the government should establish a task force that will look into how best schools could reopen without exposing learners and teachers to Covid-19.

Source - Daily News