By Makanaka Masenyama
THE Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) has urged the government to divide classes and recruit more teachers in public schools in order to reduce overcrowding in the wake of the devastating coronavirus outbreak.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa last Saturday announced that schools, colleges and universities would reopen soon to allow students writing final public examinations at the end of the year an opportunity to study.
However, ZIMTA said there was need for social distancing in public schools where an average class has 60 pupils.
It recommended that the government should split classes and hire more qualified teachers to meet the new demands brought by the pandemic.
“Taking a closer look at the Zimbabwean education set-up with regards to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on social distancing, we can already see that there is conflict,” ZIMTA said in a statement Tuesday.
“Average classes have a teacher to pupil ratio of about 1: 60 and such a large class cannot ensure effective social distancing.
“The alternative would be to split the class which in turn requires the employment of another teacher. Without effective social distancing in schools, these institutions will easily turn into high infection zones with catastrophic results,” ZIMTA said.
The largest teachers’ union in Zimbabwe also described as “premature” the decision by the government to reopen schools, which have been closed since mid-March.
“With Covid-19 cases on the rise daily and the flu season being upon us, this will turn out to be one of the worst decisions ever. Zimbabwe’s capacity to test, trace contacts, isolate and treat patients is still way below pandemic standards and the premature opening of schools can result in more infections against an already weak health system,” ZIMTA said.
The teachers group also urged the government to provide personal protective equipment to all educators as most schools had no resources to buy the material for staff.
“Schools, most of which have dried up coffers, are in no position to avail personal protective equipment to educators and pupils leaving this burden in the hands of government.
“Other schools of thought are encouraging the government to transfer the burden of personal protective equipment to parents.
“However, the extended lockdown has left most households poorer than before as all informal traders are still banned from conducting any business activities.”