‘Rural schools not ready for reopening’

MATABELELAND rural communities have called on the government to address specific schools’ challenges as part of addressing the poor pass rates which have become a common tradition at their learning institutions.
This comes after authorities recently announced a phased reopening of schools after a long lay-off due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Examination classes would be the first to reopen on March 15 while the rest of the learners will commence their studies a week later. Matabeleland communities have for the past decade complained of marginalisation, a development they say has caused successive poor pass rates for learners.

The government ordered school authorities to ensure classrooms are not congested with rotational lessons taking place in some cases to ensure adequate physical distancing. However, Rural Communities Empowerment Trust coordinator Vumani Ndlovu said this would not be possible as most schools in Matabeleland did not have the resources.

“Quite a number of schools have inadequate classroom blocks which will make the issue of maintaining physical distancing impossible. “Furthermore, most schools don’t have water and sanitation facilities which are essential for prevention against coronavirus.

“Schools are under-resourced as many parents cannot afford to pay school fees and as such the majority of the rural schools in Matabeleland will not be able to provide sanitisers and face masks,” Ndlovu said.

He further urged the government to address a number of issues before rural schools could conduct lessons during this pandemic.

“While we welcome the move by the government to open schools given the fact that the continued closure affects mostly the rural pupils, who have no access to online learning, radio lessons due to Internet and signals connectivity challenges, we, however, feel that the government should have at least addressed some of the fundamentals first that will militate against proper and effective learning,” Ndlovu said.

The Matabeleland Northbased organisation said a lot needs to be done, including dealing with teacher remuneration and ensuring that rural schools get adequate materials for coronavirus prevention. “We have a strong feeling that teachers may not be able to travel to schools, especially those in rural areas citing incapacitation and lack of bus fares given that transport charges are now in foreign currency, but they are paid in local currency,” Ndlovu said.

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