Statement on the Deferred Opening of Schools

The Education Coalition Of Zimbabwe, Every Child In School – ECIS and the Zimbabwe National Coalition for the Welfare of Children  supports and commends the cabinet decision to defer the reopening of schools for examination classes scheduled for July 28 in light of the rising number of confirmed Covid-19 infections. The deferment by Cabinet announced on 15 July 2020, was part of measures that include postponement of further opening of economic sectors, localized lockdowns in hotspots and more testing in areas where infections are spiking. 

The deferment is a welcome development, given the rise in Covid-19 confirmed local transmissions and the fact that the latest death is a child in Matabeleland South who was admitted to hospital on Saturday with pneumonia. This brings the cumulative number of deaths to 20. 

The children’s rights civil society members applaud the Cabinet for enshrining the health of the child in their decision making. We commend the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for its initiatives of rolling out alternative ways of learning like the radio and online lessons and its continuous engagement with partners and stakeholders through the Zimbabwe Education in Emergencies cluster on the way forward in providing continuous education during the pandemic. We encourage the government through parliament, to pay attention and action the petition that was submitted to parliament by ECIS on the 22nd of June 2020, which encouraged drastic measures to ensure inclusion of children who do not have access to radios, TVs, gadgets and others who are in areas where there is no transmission. We are also concerned on the competence of students who are writing exams since majority were not learning due to Covid-19.  

ECOZI, ECIS, ZNCWC remain committed to supporting the Ministry in providing quality and equitable education for all Zimbabweans. Through our various efforts through our Partners, programs, provincial, chapters, thematic committees and National membership coordination meetings continues to seek ideas and contributions in the provision of continuous quality education during Covid-19 and the reopening of schools. 

We remain convinced that reopening of schools in Zimbabwe at the moment is unsafe. We maintain our positions that there is need to make sure all schools are ready, and have managed to meet all the guidelines set to reopen. As it is, there is still a huge gap and from ECOZI rapid assessment of schools in Mashonaland Central about 60% of a sample of 30 schools assessed revealed that they were not yet prepared to reopen, they lacked enough protective clothing, sanitization, water, Infrastructure  and furniture to ensure social distance, health stations, infrared thermometers, training and expertise to ensure that they adhere to health and safety protocols to stop the spread of Covid-19 as advised by WHO. ZNCWC through their quarterly meeting established from the members of civil society that schools must not open as not only are they not ready, but the children themselves are not equipped enough to take on public transport which is also very scarce. As such there is need to continue supporting and assessing the schools’ preparedness to reopen in the face of Covid-19 

Source: Education Coalition of Zimbabwe, Every Child In School – TaLI, ZNCWC

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