Govt ropes in schools in masks production

Lift lockdown in phases

Government has turned to schools for the mass production of face masks for pupils before schools reopen for the second term due to the increased risk of contracting coronavirus.

BY Garikai Mafirakureva

The government has been depending mostly on donations from the corporate world since the outbreak of COVID-19, with frontline workers threatening to down tools due to lack of personal protective equipment.

In a circular seen by NewsDay dated April 24, 2020 which was copied to the directors, provincial education directors, district schools inspectors and primary and secondary school heads by Primary and Secondary Education permanent secretary Tumisang Thabela, schools with viable textiles technology departments were asked to help in the mass production of masks.

Thabela said her ministry was putting in place measures to mitigate the COVID-19 disaster since President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the deadly virus a state of national disaster last month.

“Through this circular, provincial education directors, working with their structures, are required to identify schools with viable textiles technology departments to undertake the production of masks.

“Provincial education directors and district schools inspectors should work with schools to identify potential partners, where possible.

The circular added: “The project should be undertaken with the guidance of the Health and Child Care ministry’s provincial medical directors to ensure the right types of cloth are identified.

“From the experience of one of the provinces, following the identification of the right type of cloth, agreed samples will need to be submitted to the Health and Child Care ministry which will facilitate approval before mass production can begin.”

According to the circular, it was important for schools to make their contribution to make sure there is sufficient protective equipment in schools considering the country has about 4,5 million pupils and 130 00 teachers.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said government should fashion the curriculum in a way that can serve the nation’s developmental needs like this.

“The curriculum is not tailor-made to serve the developmental needs of our nation,” Masaraure said.

“The policies on recruitment are haphazardly crafted, giving room to such inconsistencies.

“Textiles technology development, just like other technical subjects, is of much value and should never be disregarded when recruiting. We, however, emphasise the need to create more pathways for those who specialise in these technical subjects.”

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou accused government of double standards for now wanting to value a subject it does not recognise for entry into any professional training.

He said the move could be risky because schools do not have quality assurance departments to ensure the masks meet world health standards.