Development Education

COVID-19: ECOZI clarifies expectations on the re-opening of schools

A school teacher delivering a lesson

The Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI) applauded the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education on the Phased Reopening of Schools and called for the protection of learners against the COVID-9 pandemic during the writing of ZIMSEC Examinations.

“We commend the government’s bold stance on the reopening of schools on the 28th of September 2020 and the writing of ZIMSEC November exams from the 1st of December.

“Whilst supporting the reopening of schools, we remain firmly rooted in calling for the government to ensure that all schools fully satisfy and comply with the World Health Organisation COVID-19 Guidelines for the Safe Reopening of Schools. We resolutely call for the government to ensure that all schools comply with the Ministry’s Standard Operating Procedures for the Prevention and Management of COVID-19 and other Influenza-Like Illnesses in the Primary and Secondary Education,” said Dr. Donald D Tobaiwa, the ECOZI Chairperson, in a statement shared with Spiked Online Media. 

The organisation feels that the majority of schools were not yet fully prepared for reopening on the 28th of September 2020 and emphatically called for their capacitation.

ECOZI is concerned over the shortage of personal protective equipment and, shortage of appropriate infrastructure and furniture to allow proper social distancing as well as the shortage of infrastructure to adequately cater to learners during Phase 2 and Phase 3; and called on the government, civil society, and development partners to seriously consider ways in which Phase 2 and Phase 3 can be attained without constraining the provisions of the WHO Guidelines and the Ministry’s SOPs.

Concerned by the preparedness of learners for the November ZIMSEC Examinations, ECOZI noted that some learners have been accessing online and radio lessons whilst the majority have not been, yet they are going to seat for the same examination.

Learners with disabilities have not been accessing any lessons since 24 March 2020 when schools closed yet they are going to seat for examinations on the 1st of December 2020.

The coalition is worried that the remaining time to prepare learners for examinations is too short and will promote drilling of learners for the examination rather than learning.

Social media reports about schools allegedly charging exorbitant fees are worrisome and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education of encouraged to come up with a clear statement on the issue of school fees.

ECOZI bemoaned the welfare of the educators who are citing incapacitation and is worried that educators may not go back to school at this critical juncture.

“We, therefore, recommend that the government through the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare should have addressed the issue of teacher welfare before schools opened so as to ensure quality learning in school. We further note that most teachers are not yet at their duty stations citing lack of transport money to get to their duty station. We are worried that this may affect the smooth re-opening of schools. We, therefore, encourage the government to come up with a transportation system that will ensure that teachers are back in school and on time.”

Given this backdrop, the Coalition remains committed to ensuring equal access to equitable, inclusive and quality for ALL, and recommends that:

  1. There is need for a multi sectorial approach and community involvement. There is need for engagement of all stakeholders on safe reopening of schools and what is expected of them as guided by the SOPs of MoPSE. There is a need to raise awareness of parents and guardians on what is expected of them for the flow of the academic calendar. 
  2. We call for the capacitation of teachers with information on how to handle COVID-19 cases as soon as it is detected in the school.
  3. We call for a deliberate awareness to all learners about COVID-19 preventive measures so that they stay safe and learn to adjust to the new normal.
  4. We propose the increase of learning time for learners to catch up on lost time. The weekend can be used so that all learners can have ample time to learn considering the number of classrooms and learning content. Learning spaces can also be sourced from churches and community halls so that the learners can grasp the concepts at the most convenient time within the context of the COVID-19 WHO guidelines.
  5. We call for a structured timely communication on fees structure and payments.

“We remain committed to supporting the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in providing quality, inclusive, and equitable education for all Zimbabweans. Through our partners and programmes, we continue to seek ideas and contributions in the provision of continuous quality education during COVID-19 and the reopening of school,” .

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende