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Open schools in summer — MPs

Mugove Tafirenyika

©️ MEMBERS of Parliament have suggested that the safest time to re-open schools as Covid-19 cases continue to surge in the country is in summer.

This comes as government has, through Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema, announced that schools would re-open in phases, starting with final examinations classes this month.

Debating a report tabled by Primary and Secondary Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga after her presentation on whether schools should re-open any time soon for the second term, 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 a teacher to child ratio of 1:70 at times. Let us focus on examinations but not in winter.

“Let us do them in warm weather, 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 slow the spread of Covid-19.

MPs said the committee’s interactions with various stakeholders had revealed that the country was not ready for the re-opening 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 curricular,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.

This comes as the country’s cumulative confirmed Covid-19 cases stood at 237 by yesterday with Harare recording the highest statistics, at 98.

“All these stakeholders said we cannot re-open 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 the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council, the committee recommended the government should establish a task force that will look into how best schools could re-open without exposing learners and teachers to Covid-19.

On his part, Zanu PF MP for Shurugwi North, Robson Nyathi, warned against the early opening of schools, saying the country risked losing more lives.

Opposition MDC MP Muchaneta Muchenje questioned the wisdom of sending children to school and expect them to observe the health guidelines when adults are failing to do that.
“We the elders here are failing to adhere to rules and regulations of the disease. What about young kids?
“There is no water, data is too expensive, there is no efficient transport, and parents are unemployed. Why then are we sacrificing our children?

“We live once. Where are we rushing to, after all even if they complete their education there are no jobs?” Muchenje said.



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