Teachers’ unions have welcomed the decision by the government to delay the reopening of schools following an increase in COVID-19 cases.
They also called on the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to strengthen distance learning to help pupils cover the gap for the lost time.
Schools were expected to reopen on 28 June for the second term of the year but a surge in coronavirus infections resulted in Cabinet on Tuesday deferring schools opening by two weeks.
The government said the reopening of schools will be determined by an assessment that will be made at the end of the period.
National Association of Secondary Schools president Arthur Maphosa said Cabinet decision was timely as schools could be virus super spreaders. He said:
There could not have been a better decision that the Government could have taken as a result of the recent spike in cases.
We observe that some of our pupils are coming from districts that have been declared COVID-19 hotspots.
Others are coming from areas that have been placed on localised lockdown.
The reopening of schools could have seen learners travelling back to their learning institutions and this could have become a super spreader of the virus.
Hence, we applaud the Government’s decision to postpone the reopening of schools.
Maphosa however, said that there is an urgent need to strengthen distance learning as most learners have no access to online learning tools. He said:
However, the online learning measures are seriously restricted to a few as most of the pupils live in rural areas where there are access challenges.
Therefore, we hope that when schools reopen Government will come up with a catchup strategy that will help pupils cover the gap for the lost time.
We need a serious strategy that targets examination classes as most of them did not cover much ground last year.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said it was plausible for the country to be science-led in dealing with COVID-19. Said Ndlovu:
Education cannot wait, the country is competing with other countries to produce the best human resources and also to create an opportunity for economic development.
So when we shut down education, we are delaying the future and that must not be our mode of operation in response to the pandemic.
While it is plausible that we are advised by science and statistics of the dangers of the pandemic, we must plan to mitigate those dangers.