By Makanaka Masenyama
THE Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) has implored government to hire more qualified teachers to reduce the school teacher-to-pupil ratio in the wake of the coronavirus threat within the country’s learning institutions.
In a statement Monday, the teachers group said this would help ensure the recommended social distancing was maintained among learners.
“In the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic, overcrowded classrooms will not work, therefore the need to employ more qualified teachers in order to ensure that smaller groups of learners may continue to benefit from delivery of quality public education,” said ZIMTA.
Zimbabwean schools were forced to close a week before their official date for the holiday when the country reported its first cases of coronavirus in March.
The schools opening date for the second term has since lapsed with authorities still to announce when the learning institutions will reopen.
Said ZIMTA, “On average, several public schools around the country were operating with a ratio of one teacher to sixty learners.
“Because this is unsustainable for the provision of quality public education and more importantly, for the effecting of social distancing in schools, the situation will have to change.
“Ideal situations would require that teacher to pupil ratios are adjusted to one teacher to thirty-five in primary schools whereas in secondary schools, the ratios would have to be adjusted to one teacher for twenty learners.
“Consequently, adjusting to these levels will require that Government of Zimbabwe, who is the major guarantor of quality public education for all, must as a matter of urgency employ more qualified teachers to improve staffing levels especially in the public schools.”
ZIMTA also urged government provision of personal protective equipment to all teachers for the safety of pupils by government.
“Increased funding in the education sector will also save to ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided during the Covid-19 pandemic period, for all, without limitations.
“According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, there are at least 130 000 qualified teachers, currently operating in Zimbabwe.
“At least 4.5 million learners are found in more than 900 Primary and Secondary Schools countrywide.”
Zimbabwe has so far confirmed 36 cases, including five recoveries and four deaths of coronavirus.