SINCE the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19, parents, teachers and pupils have been worried about the timing of reopening of schools by government amid a surge in coronavirus cases and fatalities.
Primary and Secondary Education and Health and Child Care ministries have been struggling to come up with a roadmap to answer questions about the measures they have put in place for possible reopening of schools. This is because without logistics and health measures for the safety of learners, teachers, members of staff and even parents, reopening schools would be ill-timed.
As of yesterday morning, the country had recorded 32 004 confirmed cases and 1 103 deaths from COVID-19.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has interrupted the education of the entire school-going generation and many pupils will struggle to catch up when schools reopen because of prolonged closure.
This has prompted the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) to urge government to consider making plans to reopen schools in order to “save lives and the future of schoolchildren.”
Zimta chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu said: “We must save lives, but we cannot continue to destroy livelihoods because children have been affected a lot in terms of their education. Other countries have opened schools even though there is a pandemic.’’
This is despite the fact that the same union last year joined other teacher organisations to take government to the High Court seeking to overturn the Education ministry’s decision to reopen schools.
Then, teacher organisations argued that parents, students, and teachers were apprehensive over the reopening of schools because coronavirus cases were upward bound.
They feared that schools could become COVID-19 hotspots.
It is apparent that schools play an important role in society through the provision of education to schoolchildren.
Inasmuch as Zimta is advocating for the reopening of schools, it is paramount to bear in mind the potential impact the coronavirus may have on schoolchildren, teachers, members of staff and entire communities.
Now is not the time to reopen schools as cases continue to rise to alarming levels across the country. Instead of calling for schools to reopen, Zimta should look into how to deal with the social, mental and educational wellbeing of children once schools reopen.
So before advocating for the reopening, it is important to make sure government puts in place measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in schools because children with the virus can spread it to others, teachers, members of staff and families.
There is also need for teachers to be equipped with resources and capacitated to prevent infection so that they function in a safe environment in this COVID-19 pandemic era.