Parliament calls for suspension of exams


Mugove Tafirenyika 


RISING Covid-19 cases in schools across the country has resulted in Parliament recommending to the government that it defers end-of-year examinations, the Daily News reports.  

Since last week, Zimbabwe has been reporting a high number of positive cases at learning institutions, with schools such as John Tallach in Matabeleland South now standing at 189.

In Mashonaland West Province, cases at Chinhoyi High have risen from 19 to 31 after more positive results were recorded on Tuesday night.

Other schools that have reported Covid-19 cases include Matopo High School in Matabeleland South, with 10 students infected.

Chinhoyi University of Technology and Midlands State University have also recorded cases in recent days.

On Wednesday, the parliamentary portfolio committee on Education chaired by MDC MP Priscilla Misiharabwi-Mushonga recommended that under the circumstances, the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) examinations set to stat early next month be suspended.

“Due to the teachers’ strike, little learning and revision have taken place, hence the dates for examinations (December 5, 2020) is no longer feasible in such circumstances.

“The committee recommends that the ministry should reconsider progressing with examinations from the 5th of December 2020 and defer them to February 2021.

“The government and teacher unions should expedite salary negotiations and find a lasting solution on the matter to avoid further dilapidation of the education sector by end of November,” the committee recommended.

The MPs argued that following countrywide consultations with stakeholders, they had come to the conclusion that even without the increasing number of cases, no learning had been taking place in schools owing to teachers’ strike hence candidates were not adequately prepared.

“Alternative methods of learning such as radio and online were inaccessible to the rural learners, where accessible; the pupils lacked the gadgets.

“In addition, alternative methods, particularly online lessons were hindered by the high costs of data bundles.

“The decision to continue with the other school opening phases may bring more challenges to schools since, particularly wayward behaviour by learners is rampant due to the absence of teachers.

“Alternative methods of learning used by the government disadvantaged disabled learners,” said the committee.

It also called on the government to present before Parliament a “proper plan” that articulates how disadvantaged children will be assisted by the end of November.

“Alternative methods of learning should be comprehensive and inclusive of every learner, including the disadvantaged and vulnerable learners.

“Modern gadgets for learners such as tablets and laptops should be budgeted for in the 2021 National Budget, and these should be distributed to rural schools by June 2021,” the committee further recommended.

This comes as authorities have said they are seriously worried about the rising cases of Covid-19 infections in the education sector.

Health experts have warned that the government could struggle to contain a second wave of Covid-19 if schools are not closed immediately.

On Tuesday, the government admitted it was very worried about the rising Covid-19 cases, especially at boarding schools.
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“Cabinet notes that a number of Covid-19 positive cases were reported at learning institutions, following the full reopening of schools.

“The nation is advised that measures have been put in place to strengthen protective and preventative measures in boarding school environments.

“The ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, with technical support from the ministry of Health and Child Care, is organising logistics for implementing the following practical measures to minimise the recurrence of the John Tallach School experience in other boarding schools; reviewing the maximum carrying capacity of all boarding hostels, conducting detailed inspection of boarding facilities and targeted training of hostel matrons, boarding masters and kitchen staff,” acting Information minister Mangaliso Ndhlovu told a post-Cabinet briefing.

“Cabinet reiterates that the lockdown and curfew measures previously announced are still subsisting. It should be noted that public bars, night clubs, beer halls, casinos, betting shops and theatres are still not permitted to operate.

“The nation is informed that gatherings are still limited to two persons, while authorised events such as weddings and church congregations are limited to 50 and 100 persons, respectively.

“The enforcement of lockdown measures will be intensified henceforth,” Ndlovu said further.

“It should be emphasised that where there is non-compliance, the law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to enforce the penalties prescribed,” he added.

Ndlovu said Cabinet had also been informed by the chairperson of the ad-hoc inter-ministerial Covid-19 taskforce, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, that as at November 20, the country had recorded a cumulative 9 120 confirmed coronavirus cases, 8 229 recoveries and 265 deaths.

It was also reported that 7 650 of the confirmed cases were local transmissions, with new cases for week 46 standing at 281 — compared to 294 recorded in week 45.

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