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Schools open for exam classes

by Staff reporter
15 Mar 2021 at 05:00hrs | Views
SCHOOLS re-opened today for examination classes with Government expecting most teachers to report for duty as negotiations for improved salaries are ongoing.

Yesterday parents and guardians accompanied children learning at boarding schools as they returned to school ahead of the opening. In Bulawayo, most of the pupils boarded buses at the City Hall car park.

A news crew observed that some schools such as Tsholotsho High School were only allowing pupils whose fees are paid in full to board buses. Parents and guardians welcomed the new education calendar saying if properly utilised children will be able to catch up on lost time.

Some parents however expressed uncertainty regarding the turn up of teachers following the failure of the Government and civil servants to reach an agreement on salary negotiations last week.

They also expressed mixed reactions over schools' preparedness to handle Covid-19. Last week, Government turned down a request by private schools to have a separate school calendar from the one announced by Government.

The private schools had wanted to close on March 31 and reopen on May 3. Government has said private schools that do not follow the approved school calendar may be deregistered. According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Term One ends on June 4 with the second term commencing on June 28, ending on September 10.

The third term will start on October 4 and end on December 17.

Schools were supposed to open on 4 January but Government was forced to defer the opening due to a spike in Covid-19 cases. Parents said it was good that pupils are returning to school at long last.

One of the parents who identified herself as Mrs Maphuna said social distancing could be a challenge at some schools. She however said she was confident this time around pupils will have a better learning time compared to last year.

"This is a good development that our children are now returning to school. It was now a challenge having them at home for this long period. Also, these are classes that are proceeding to Form Four and Form Six without much learning in the past year but having a full term is good for the learners. I know the term might be shorter than the one we are used to but I'm not just a parent but a teacher as well, so I know that when teachers get to class, learners can cover a lot of ground," said Mrs Maphuna.

Another parent Mr Pilut Ncube said Covid-19 had greatly inconvenienced learners not just educationally but socially hence the reopening of schools was important.

"It was now difficult to rein in some of our children at home. Right now, schools are reopening but not all the children would be returning to schools. Some have fallen pregnant and the boys have gone rowdy. So, as they return to school it will be hard for the schools to control them especially after corporal punishment was banned. I think it is time to reintroduce it for the best of our children. We grew up being physically disciplined, they also need it especially now," said Mr Ncube.

Another parent Mrs Precise Ncube urged Government to address the teachers' salary demands to avoid cases whereby they do not report for duty citing incapacitation as was the case in the past. She said a well-paid teacher is likely to do his best to assist the pupils to catch up on lost learning time. Another parent, Pastor Alois Matonga said there is a need to strictly adhere to Covid-19 mitigation measures in schools.

"This week it will be better as schools are just opening for examination classes. I think the schools will be able to implement Covid-19 prevention measures. But going into March 22 when all learners are back in school, I think it will be a challenge for schools.

"Right now, we don't have a clear plan on how schools will protect our children from Covid-19. Also, there are pupils with underlying illnesses, they should be identified in schools as they are at high risk of developing complications in case there is a Covid-19 outbreak. I think they should be considered for vaccination as soon as possible," he said.

Primary and Secondary Education communications and advocacy manager Mr Taungana Ndoro said Government is confident that teachers will turn up for work.

"We are very confident that our teachers would turn up. Remember last year we had 95 percent attendance by our teachers by the end of year.

"Therefore, we expect that trend to continue, pick up from where they left. You may not expect all teachers to report for duty tomorrow because remember we are just opening for examination classes. But obviously when the rest of the pupils reopen on March 22, we expect 100 percent attendance," he said.

"Government is continuing with negotiations to improve civil servants' salaries and we in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education are continuing to lobby for the improvement of the conditions of service for the teachers. So, we are really confident that our teachers will report for duty."

Mr Ndoro said Government will be closely monitoring the Association of Trust Schools to ensure that they follow the law.

"The law is very clear and the permanent secretary has been very clear as to what may happen to schools that don't adhere to the calendar that she published as the head of the Ministry. "They will obviously get a lot of censorship if they defy the ministry's directive. We will be going around to assess if there are any private schools which have not opened.

"Those which do not adhere to the calendar will be instructed to open and schools that stick to their own calendar might face a sterner reprimand which can include deregistration," said Mr Ndoro.

ATS executive director Mr Tim Middleton could not be reached for comment yesterday as his cellphone was not reachable.



Source - the herald

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