Unicef backs schools’ reopening

Sindiso Mhlophe

THE United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Zimbabwe says the reopening of schools should be prioritised ahead of other public institutions, the Daily News reports.

This comes as the government has indicated that schools will open on July 28, with teachers’ unions — including the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) — warning the government against rushing to reopen schools before necessary measures are put in place to mitigate the spread of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19).
In a statement, Unicef indicated that there was no known evidence of a correlation between the rate of disease transmission and whether or not schools remain open or closed, adding that evidence on the negative impacts of schools closure was overwhelming, with long-term implications for children’s learning, safety, health and wellbeing.
“We recognise that the pandemic is impacting countries and local communities differently and the global situation is evolving rapidly. Decisions on when to open schools must be made in the best interests of children. Countries must look at the impact on children not able to access learning as well as through a public health, socio-economic and protection lens.
“We know that the longer children stay out of school, the more exposed they are to dangers. This is especially true for children who are already vulnerable. We are calling for schools to be among the first services to open when the appropriate safety measures are put into place,” Unicef Zimbabwe said.
In Zimbabwe, the government has set a tentative date of July 28 for the phased reopening of schools, which would see examination classes, including Grade Sevens, Form Fours and Advanced Level students, returning to school.
The country’s confirmed Covid-19 cases have gone over 780, including 209 recoveries and nine deaths.
Unicef called on the government to ensure that many precautions and preparations are planned to ensure the schools are safe for learners, teachers, staff and parents.
“There are several steps that need to be undertaken before reopening of schools and the government should ensure school buildings, classrooms, teachers’ houses, water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) facilities and grounds are thoroughly disinfected
before reopening and that essential personal protective equipment (PPE) for both teachers and children are availed.
“Both learners and teachers should attend the orientation on Covid-19, to be organised by the school before reopening. Schools should prepare a list of learners, teachers and other staff members with underlying conditions or special needs and schools should have a list of critical Covid-19 resources in place,” Unicef said.
Meanwhile, Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema has expressed confidence that schools, which were being used as quarantine centres and those which were not, will be ready to open by July 28.
“I want to register my profound gratitude as the schools try to find their role in the fight against the pandemic by producing personal protective equipment.
“All of us who are threatened by this virus are our children and learners, non-teaching staff and our teachers. We have 4,6 million learners, 13 6000 teachers, 9 625 schools so the sector can make an immense contribution to the protection and safety of learners, teachers and non-teaching staff. By the way, here we are talking of learners in both public and independent schools, all schools,” Mathema recently said.

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