Prioritise learners: Child President

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CHILD President Mukudzeishe Madzivire yesterday called on government to ensure that schools are adequately prepared to fight COVID-19 when schools reopen next week.In a virtual meeting, Madzivire and his junior Primary and Secondary Education minister Tanaka Wayne Matiza told the Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education that they were concerned that schools used as isolation centres have not been disinfected to ensure the safety of children and teachers from coronavirus.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Schoolchildren are not the only ones that have expressed concern over their safety.Teachers have said government is not adequately prepared for schools opening during the COVID-19 era.
The teachers have also declared incapacitation, demanding to be paid US$520 salaries.

“Classrooms have not yet been disinfected, which means that there is a high chance of spreading the virus, and we also need systematic use of sanitisers to enforce hand washing at schools,” Madzivire said.

“Schools must work with senior students to ensure that social distancing is observed because it will be very unfair for people to expect that a child in Early Childhood Development (ECD) or Grade 1 does understand the concept of social distancing.

“The welfare of children should be considered because the virus can be spread during teacher-pupil face-to-face interaction. As children, we demand access to personal protective equipment.”

Madzivire added: “We also recommend a reduced teacher to pupil ratio of a maximum 30 students per teacher as prescribed by the World Health Organisation.”
He demanded that COVID-19 isolation centres must be established at schools for those children that might fall sick during classes. He said the school isolation centres must be fully equipped.

Matiza said children with disabilities and those in rural settings need to be aware of the preparations that government has made for the opening of schools during COVID-19.
“Government has said it will avail $600 million for schools opening, but we need to know if government has communicated to rural schools on safety issues so that they are not left behind.

“As kids, we shake hands and play a lot even before we get to school and there is need for extensive communication on hand-washing.

“It also seems that schools are now designing face masks for students who have been told to purchase those masks. But most parents were on lockdown and were not going to work. We are not sure if they will be able to afford those masks, especially the rural children. We need to know how the $600 million will be distributed amongst urban and rural schools so that children benefit,” Matiza said.

The committee said it would forward the children’s requests to the relevant ministry.