Covid-19: Schools Not Ready To Reopen – Parliament

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By Anna Chibamu

SCHOOLS are not ready to reopen for the second term as Covid-19 cases continue to surge in the country, Members of Parliament said Thursday.

MPs felt the recent announcement by Education Minister Cain Mathema that schools would reopen in phases starting with final examinations classes this June, was a costly experiment with the lives of children.

The MPs were debating a report by the Primary and Secondary Education Parliamentary Portfolio committee chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga after her presentation on whether schools should reopen any time soon for the second term.

Schools, colleges, and universities have been closed since mid-March as part of the government’s measures to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the committee’s interactions with various stakeholders had revealed that the country was not ready for the re-opening of schools considering the increase in new Covid-19 infections across the country.

As of Thursday, confirmed Covid-19 cases stood at 237 with Harare recording the highest statistics, at 98 cases.

“Teachers’ unions made it clear that schools were not yet ready for opening. Though the ministry wanted to proceed with June exams, we should not be held to ransom by a curricular,” said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

“All these stakeholders said we cannot proceed to re-open because of the basics like running water, personal protective equipment, and basic screening equipment that are needed for that and are not there.”

The committee recommended the government to establish a task force that will look into how best schools could re-open but not exposing learners and teachers to Covid-19.

“We are being too general in our conversations. There are legal issues, social distancing, teacher to child ratio of 1:70 at times. Let us focus on exams but not in winter. Let us do them in warm periods, in September or November maybe,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga pointed out.

“Let us embrace e-learning and adopt it as a new norm. Let us also licence private partners who supply gadgets to the ministry which will then pay for the services.”

Zanu PF Shurugwi North legislator Robson Nyathi warned if schools were to re-open early, lives will be lost.

“We cannot afford to lose more lives now due to the Covid-19 through the opening of schools,” said Nyathi.

MDC Alliance MP Muchaneta Muchenje added: “We the elders here are failing to adhere to rules and regulations of the disease. What about young kids? There is no water, data is too expensive, there is no efficient transport, parents are unemployed. Why then are we sacrificing our children? We live once. Where are we rushing to, after all even if they complete their education there are no jobs?”