BY MRIAM MANGWAYA/DONALD NYANDORO
SOME schools around the country are demanding that pupils produce COVID-19-free certificates before they are admitted for the last term of the year following outbreaks within the first week of reopening.
Schools only resumed classes for the second and final term of the year last week following a prolonged closure due to spiking infections during winter, for examination classes while the rest of the pupils restart in-class learning today.
Other schools are providing testing facilities at the school gates to ensure that only pupils who are COVID-19-free are allowed into their premises.
Kriste Mambo Girls High School near Juliasdale on Saturday reported that it recorded nine COVID-19 cases during the first week of the schools reopening.
In a circular to parents and guardians, Sister Monica Maparura urged parents to make sure their children bring COVID-19 test results.
“We would like to inform you that after receiving the examination classes, we had some learners who exhibited some COVID-19 symptoms on day five of reopening, Maparura said.
“We procedurally informed the Ministry of Health. Eighteen learners, who include those who exhibited symptoms and their contacts, were tested. Nine of them tested positive. The Ministry of Health’s assessment revealed that the cases were imported and not local. In view of this, the Ministry of Health has recommended that all students who are coming to school tomorrow Sunday September 5, 2021 should produce COVID-19 antigen rapid diagnostic tests so as to assist the school in implementing the relevant measures.”
Teachers’ unions said they had received several reports of schools that were recording COVID-19 cases in the past week.
“We have received reports of schools that are recording COVID-19 cases though we are yet to gather the actual figures of the affected pupils. It has come to our attention that a school in Marondera and another in Matabeleland South (province) have recorded cases of COVID-19, during the first week of the second term,” Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe told NewsDay.
The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) also said there had been reports of outbreaks at several schools.
“There is a COVID-19 case at St Mark’s in Mhondoro which was recorded in the past week, while a teacher at St Mark’s Primary School in Mhondoro again succumbed to COVID-19 in the same week,” Zimta secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said, adding that there were more cases for which they would only get full details today.
During the first term this year, several schools were forced to close after recording a high number of COVID-19 cases.
According to statistics released by the Health ministry on Saturday, the country recorded 94 new COVID-19 cases, while nine people succumbed to the virus, bringing the totals to 125 425 and 4 466, respectively, by yesterday morning since the first was recorded in the country last year in March.
Health deputy minister John Mangwiro was not picking up his phone for comment.
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa told NewsDay that due to limited testing capacities, more pupils in schools could be suffering from COVID-19, but the cases were not being recorded.
“Children have always been contracting COVID-19, but most of them have not been exhibiting symptoms,” he said.
“It is not surprising that several schools have COVID-19 cases. But the situation right now does not warrant for schools to be closed. This is a reminder that COVID-19 is still with us.
“Learning should continue in schools, but what is important is to ensure that the situation is kept under control so that we don’t get ballooning figures. There is a need to cautiously monitor the cases to ensure that all complicated cases are dealt with urgently.”
Government announced last week that it had opened the COVID-19 vaccination to 14 to 17-year age groups, who constitute a significant number of school-going pupils.
But unions said only 5% of teachers had been vaccinated and have called on government to ensure that their members get the COVID-19 jabs to protect them and those pupils who have not yet been vaccinated.
Government urged parents to help in ensuring their children had enough personal protective equipment (PPE), but parents who spoke to NewsDay yesterday said they could not afford it, especially after government increased school fees by 33%.
Parents also decried private transport operators who were charging about twice or thrice the normal travelling fares yesterday.
There was chaos at several pick-up points in Harare yesterday as learners and staff jostled for transport to their schools.
“Government should have organised subsidised transport fares to facilitate smooth travelling of pupils and teachers to their respective schools since private transport operators have been barred from transporting in intercity,” a teacher, who was at a pick-up point behind Rufaro Stadium in Mbare, Harare, said.
“We are still in the middle of the pandemic where we need to adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines of social distancing, which is not the case here.”
Another parent, Charity Moyo, raised concern over government’s decision to reopen schools without ensuring safety of children from COVID-19.
“It is difficult for us to provide PPE for our children to sustain them the whole of this long term,” Moyo said.
“We are financially incapable of providing enough PPE as required by government.”
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) said it planned to stage a protest today against the public transport crisis.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry permanent secretary Tumisang Thabela said she could not comment as she was travelling.
She referred questions to the ministry’s spokesperson Taungana Ndoro, whose mobile number was not reachable.
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