BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
HIGHER and Tertiary Education minister Amon Murwira yesterday revealed in Parliament that his ministry had initiated the process to reopen all public and private institutions of higher learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Presenting oral evidence, Murwira said public and private institutions of higher learning would only resume lectures after handing in their COVID-19 preparedness plans.
“Ministry has initiated a gradual process of reopening all public and private higher and tertiary education institutions (HTEIs) that have examination classes for 2020 to resume lectures, subject to satisfactorily providing a COVID-19 preparedness plan and demonstrating capacity to implement it,” Murwira said.
“Permission to reopen has been granted to universities for resuming of teaching and learning adhering to all the requirements of the World Health Organisation (WHO), as set out in Statutory Instrument 99/2020, which emphasises the need to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on and off campuses.”
He added that the ministry has set up COVID-19 emergency response taskforces at all institutions of higher learning and that personnel had undergone training on prevention and control.
“In a bid to ensure safety of students, HTEIs introduced blended learning supported by e-learning, Modular Object-Orientated Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) — an open source platform”, he said.
Murwira said universities had pegged accommodation at $1 000 per student per semester to encourage students to stay on campus during the phased reopening.
“Students shall be returning to campus in phases using the logic of final year alternating with fourth or third year students, second year and then first year students. While those awaiting their return to campus and still at home shall learn through the approved platform, that is e-learning MOODLE. These learners shall enjoy ministry-negotiated zero-rated bundles for accessing the learning platform and downloaded educational materials” he said.
Murwira told Parliament that universities had set aside hostels for quarantining students who present high temperature and require immediate medical attention on campus and shall be monitored by university clinic staff in close liaison with provisional hospitals.
He said they had taken measures to reduce class sizes by capping them at 50.
For non-resident staff and students, Murwira said they would inspect suitability of accommodation, eg boarding houses or lodgings.