Health Time Bomb Looms As All Students Return To Class Monday

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

THE scheduled total reopening of schools next Monday is in limbo amid myriad challenges associated with preventing the spread of the coronavirus among learners and teachers.

The phased reopening of schools under Covid-19 regulations will see all the remaining grades going back into class next week.

However, it has emerged most local schools were not prepared for reopening due to a cocktail of challenges including non-compliance with the Covid-19 prevention regulations as well as shortages of teachers.

Most teachers in public schools have not been reporting for work since schools reopened in September citing incapacitation.

Addressing parents during a pre-school’s opening meeting at the government owned Kumalo Primary School in Bulawayo Thursday, the school’s headmistress Stella Mhlanga said her school was not ready to accommodate all students as the government had not availed any personal protective equipment (PPE) for both learners and teachers.

“We have called you so that you can proffer solutions on the challenges which the school is facing. We do not have PPE, thermometers, teachers and adequate learning classrooms for all the children but the government has directed us to open schools on Monday.

“As parents, you need to come up with solutions on what to do so that the school can open,” the headmistress told the parents.

Mhlanga said the school only had access to water, once every week, a development which exposed pupils and teachers to Covid-19 risk.

The school’s Development Committee (SDC) chairperson Happiness Davira pleaded with the parents to buy the PPE, thermometers and cleaning detergents for the school.

“The parents for grades seven and six have managed to mobilise money to buy PPEs and incentivising the teachers to come to work. I do not know how they did it but you can also make a similar arrangement and the teachers will come,” he said, however, much to the disapproval of the parents.

In response, one of the parents suggested the school should defer total reopening until all the issues raised by the headmistress were addressed.

“Let us all understand the definition of a school. There is no school without buildings, teachers, parents and the learners. We cannot risk our children by bringing them here when there are no teachers and classrooms, otherwise we will end up with an orphanage home here without any learning happening,” said the parent.

Another parent suggested the school should pitch learning tents in line with social distancing guidelines.

“I am suggesting the children should rotate attending lessons. By doing so, we will try to minimise the number of children at the school at any given time,” said the parent.

Other parents expressed strong reservations about giving teachers incentives.

“As parents, we should not be involved in the teachers and government wars over salaries. The government and teachers should resolve their issues. Where I am employed, I am not also adequately paid. The teachers and parents are all suffering,” said the parent.

The meeting failed to come up with a conclusive resolution about the issue but both the headmistress and the SDC chairman maintained the Khumalo primary school would reopen for all classes Monday despite the challenges.