Position on the Reopening of Schools and Preparedness for the November 2020 ZIMSEC Examinations

We acknowledge the announcement by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education on the Phased Reopening of Schools and we are committed to supporting the Ministry for a safe reopening. We applaud the Government of Zimbabwe for protecting learners against the pandemic, during the writing of June ZIMSEC Examinations. We commend government’s bold stance on the reopening of schools on the 28th of September 2020 and the writing of ZIMSEC November exams from the 1st of December.

Whilst supporting the reopening of schools, we remain firmly rooted in calling for the government to ensure that all schools fully satisfy and comply with the World Health Organisation COVID-19 Guidelines for the Safe Reopening of Schools. We resolutely call for the government to ensure that all schools comply with the Ministry’s Standard Operating Procedures for the Prevention and Management of COVID-19 and other Influenza-like illnesses in the Primary and Secondary schools.

We feel that the majority of schools are not yet fully prepared for reopening on the 28th of September 2020, and we emphatically call for their capacitation. We are concerned about the shortage of personal protective equipment and the shortage of appropriate infrastructure and furniture to allow proper social distancing. We are further concerned by the shortage of infrastructure to adequately cater for learners during Phase 2 and Phase 3. We call for the government, civil society and development partners to seriously consider ways in which Phase 2 and Phase 3 can be attained without constraining the provisions of the WHO Guidelines and the Ministry’s SOPs.

We are further concerned by the preparedness of learners for the November ZIMSEC Examinations. We note that some learners have been accessing online and radio lessons whilst the majority have not been, yet they are going to sit for the same examinations. We are further concerned that learners with disabilities have not been accessing any lessons since 24 March 2020, when schools closed, yet they are going to sit for examinations on the 1st of December 2020. We are worried that the remaining time to prepare learners for examinations is too short and will promote drilling of learners for the examination rather than learning. We are further worried by social media reports about schools allegedly charging exorbitant fees and we encourage the Ministry to come up with a clear statement on the issue of school fees.

We bemoan the welfare of the educators citing incapacitation and we are worried that educators may not go back to school at this critical juncture. We, therefore, recommend that the government, through the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare, addresses the issue of teacher welfare before schools open so as to ensure quality learning in school. We further note that teachers are not yet at their duty stations and they are citing a lack of transport money to get to their duty stations. We are worried that this may affect the smooth re-opening of schools. We, therefore, encourage government to come up with a transportation system that will ensure that teachers are back in school and on time.

Given this backdrop, the Coalition remains committed to ensuring equal access to equitable, inclusive and quality for ALL. We, therefore, recommend that:

  • There is a need for a multi-sectorial approach and community involvement. There is a need for engagement of all stakeholders on the safe reopening of schools and what is expected of them as guided by the SOPs of MoPSE. There is a need to raise awareness of parents and guardians on what is expected of them for the flow of the academic calendar.
  • We call for the capacitation of teachers with information on how to handle COVID-19 cases as soon as it is detected in the school.
  • We call for a deliberate awareness of all learners about COVID-19 preventive measures so that they stay safe and learn to adjust to the new normal.
  • We propose the increase of learning time for learners to catch up on lost time. The weekend can be used so that all learners can have ample time to learn, considering the number of classrooms and learning content. Learning spaces can also be sourced from churches and community halls so that the learners can grasp the concepts at the most convenient time within the context of the COVID-19 WHO guidelines.
  • We call for a structured timely communication on fee structure and payments.
  • We remain committed to supporting the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in providing quality, inclusive and equitable education for all Zimbabweans. Through our partners and programmes, we continue to seek ideas and contributions in the provision of continuous quality education during COVID-19 and the reopening of school.

Source: Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI)