Mixed feelings over schools’ shutdown after Covid-19 outbreak

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By Mbekezeli Ncube

PARENTS and guardians in Bulawayo have expressed mixed feelings over the re-opening of schools following the rapid spread of Covid-19 among hundreds of learners in some local schools.

Some parents who spoke to Wednesday urged government to close schools immediately.

Others are of a differing opinion as they urge authorities to acquire sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for distribution among learners as they attended school.

Zimbabweans schools shut down end of March this year as a way of reducing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They started re-opening in phases beginning 28 September for classes that were writing final exams this year.

The last phase involved Early Childhood Development scholars, Grades one up to five pupils as well as Forms one and two students on the 9th of this month.

Since then, some schools have been hit by the deadly virus with Matabeleland North’s John Tallach High School most affected, with recorded 184 cases.

Chinhoyi High School has recorded 57 cases while Matopo High School in Matabeleland South has reported 10 positive cases.

People who spoke in interviews with said the only option left was to close schools before young lives are lost.

“In the first place, I didn’t support the reopening of schools considering the state of affairs in our country but as a country which always succumbs to peer-pressure, schools were reopened and we all knew it was a disaster waiting to strike.

“In future, such decisions need consultations across the board to prevent unnecessary mishaps like this,” said Prince Nkosinathi Mangena.

Another parent, Watchy Sibanda said the government should stop being arrogant and start listening to contrary views.

“This is a sign of incompetence on our government; they should have listened to the people rather than rushing when they were not ready,” said Sibanda.

“Izikolo azivalwe (just close schools,” declared one Audrey.

Jethro Musapingura said, “Closing schools will be a good move from the government since most of the schools don’t have the Covid-19 requirements in place. That would reduce the risk of our children getting infected.”

Another parent who identified himself as Nhlanhla Nyathi said he felt sorry for school teachers who are forced to expose themselves to the hazards of contracting Covid-19 when they were earning poor salaries.

Some parents however differed insisting that closing schools was not the best solution.

A man called Chidzewere said shutting down schools will not stop people from getting infected by the virus which he said was now everywhere and not just only in schools.

“If the schools close then what? Meaning we don’t have an education calendar next year. Covid-19 is everywhere,” he said.

Chidzewere said schools must keep on testing everyone, with those found positive taken under quarantine.

Thando Gumede said “children must continue learning because we have witnessed so many pregnancies during the long lockdown period; even crimes which include teenage murders”.

“At least when they are in school, they are kept busy and away from anti-social behaviours,” he said.

Others also felt schools but continue operating but under strict Covid-19 preventive guidelines that include fumigation, sanitising, practising physical distancing, putting on face masks.