By Joel Mandaza
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Ms Thumisang Thabela has told Parliament that some pupils in the country will have to learn from tents when schools open in a few weeks time.
The government has expressed intent to open schools and has also insisted on continuing with the June examinations despite the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Presenting the School Reopening Strategy to the Parliament Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, Thabela said schools are likely to be opened in four weeks time adding that the infrastructure will however be stretched with social distancing guidelines which will require classes to be halved.
“Schools will be opened in phases. First phase will see exam classes going to school. This phase needs about four weeks to put in place,” she said.
Two weeks after the initial opening-expected to come in four weeks- the next stage will follow.
“Phase two will see those writing next year going to school these are learners in Grade six, form three and Lower Six,” Thabela said.
She added; “Phase three will see Grade three, four and five returning to school. Forms one and two will also do the same.”
According to Thabela those that will come under phase three will use tents as there will be no facilities available to accommodate them.
“As we get to phase three we are very sure at that time classrooms will be used up. We will be using tents, mobile classrooms one day classes. There is a lot of infrastructure that might be called up.
The infrastructure and human resource will be stretched at this point.”
Stage four is where Grade ones and two go back to school, while stage five which comes three weeks after is when early childhood development classes (Grade Zero) will go to school.
Government is however at crossroads with teachers’ unions which are urging a delay in reopening schools.
In a statement, Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) said with a teacher to pupil ratio of 1:60 reopening is an application for disaster.
Re-opening of schools whilst hordes of people from the diaspora are being brought in from COVID-19 infested regions might be just as good as opening a Pandora’s box,” Zimta said.
“Sadly, this announcement is in direct conflict with the situation obtaining on the ground where schools are being used as COVID-19 quarantine centres.
This raises the simple question, where are these classes expected to be carried out if these institutions are being used as quarantine centres?
Despite these misgivings, Cabinet is expected to rubber-stamp the reopening proposal in its next sitting.-Get all COVID-19 statistics for Zimbabwe from COVID-TRACKER