Corona convolutes schools re-opening

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By Mugove Tafirenyika and Sindiso Mhlophe

THE government has set strict conditions for the resumption of face-to-face schooling and the sitting of end-of-year examinations, the Daily News reports.
However, a showdown still looms between authorities and school heads who are demanding that fees be paid in foreign currency or the equivalent in local currency to meet the strict conditions set by the government.

This comes as examination classes are set to start on Monday next week — with the government directing school heads to ensure that there are infra-red thermometers, hand washing stations and sanitisers at all learning institutions, among other things.

Among the guidelines is also the need to ensure that learners do not share textbooks and desks, to enforce social distancing and the management of coronavirus.

School heads are also obliged to ensure the availability of face masks or face-shields that meet stipulated health standards, as well as a gender-balanced team of health or station co-ordinators trained in Covid-19 infection, prevention and control.

“Failure to observe these guidelines would compromise the health and safety of all and thus be in breach of the Public Health Act and relevant prevention and control measures for Covid-19, or any other epidemic prone disease or outbreak.

“Accordingly, heads of office at national, provincial, district and school level have the responsibility to ensure and enforce compliance and failure to observe the seriousness of this matter attracts disciplinary action,” the government has warned.

Meanwhile, the National Association of School Heads (NASH) has said that schools are currently not able to meet the tough requirements.

“NASH recommends that schools be authorised to budget in US dollars. On the ground suppliers are charging for goods and services in foreign currency. This is now the norm in urban and rural areas.

“NASH further recommends that schools be allowed to charge approved pre-October 2018 fees in US dollars or Zimbabwe dollar equivalent using the auction rate, if the request for US dollars is not accepted.
“Government can also set benchmarks for fees or a range to avoid a requirement that every school should apply.

The 2018 rates provide an important guide,” NASH president Arthur Maposa said in a letter to authorities.
“Government subsidy to schools is required as fees collected from Forms 4 and 6 only would be grossly inadequate to meet all costs … and other essential services.

“Schools are already in the red and staring at huge debts hence the need for a bailout,” he added.

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