Covid-19: School heads warn against rushed opening, set minimum safety conditions

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

ZIMBABWEAN school heads have demanded placement of teachers as part of the country’s frontline staff against Covid-19.

In a statement Thursday, the heads further warned against any rushed schools opening by government without appropriate measures put in place to avoid the spread of the pandemic among learners.

Speaking under the umbrella National Association of School Heads (NASH), the school managers said if learning institutions were to open as per education calender next week, they could easily become epicentres of coronavirus in the country.

The heads went on to propose minimum conditions for schools to open with the safety of learners and teachers firmly placed as a priority.

NASH also wants teachers to be paid risk allowances by government.

If school are going to open any time soon, according to NASH, health experts and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines must strictly be followed.

“Social distancing among learners will be a major challenge especially during break times,” said the school heads.

“Consequently, schools may prove to be a fertile epicentre for the spread of COVID-19.

“Therefore, opening schools should be on phased basis starting with fewer learners that are manageable.

“Teachers, learners and ancillary staff to be tested nationally prior to the commencement of the lessons, a process that has a huge budget implication to see it through.

“The said stakeholders also need appropriate protective attire to prevent the spread and the ministry should ensure that all that is in place before the start of the lessons.”

The heads added, “Classrooms, hostels, offices should be subjected to comprehensive disinfection and disinfectants for daily use by stakeholders availed in institutions prior to the commencement of lessons.

“Teachers and ancillary staff be classified under frontline workers because they are high risk of being infected.

“Therefore, should be entitled to risk allowance like any other frontline workers.”

Turning to boarding schools, the heads warned opening for all learners could be disastrous.

“Maybe if we decided to settle for the worst, only examination class should be allowed to resume lessons provided all cited conditions are unflinching, adhere to the letter,” said the school heads.

“Albeit deferring the opening of all learning institutions is the most suitable prevention for the spread of the pandemic.

“Boarding school learners and teachers should be screened and quarantined for 14-days before allowing them to congregate as a class.”

NASH said all learners have been severely affected in that either they were not writing end of year examinations as per their academic year.

Syllabus completion will be a huge challenge assuming that schools remain closed with those writing end of year examinations likely not to graduate.