This weekend is the major “Back to School” weekend for the re-opening of the education sector in Phase 3 of the opening of schools which continues to proceed despite objections from both education authorities and the public at large. Phase 3 represents the resumption of non-examination classes in the education sector namely Early Childhood Development (ECD), primary school Grades 1 to 5 and Forms 1 and 2 representing a return to complete reopening of schools, a population of 3 million strong learners who are going back to school.
We note the frantic efforts made by families and learners to secure learning materials, purchasing of school supplies and the travelling upon both public and school buses which often travel inter-provincially to boarding schools. We note with distress, the congestion in school supply stores which are no longer controlling numbers of persons in stores and yielding to shopper demands yet creating conditions within confined shopping spaces which may be easily categorised as potential “super-spreader” venues. We note further the reduction of “at-door” inspections of temperature and sanitation adherences in community stores and local shops and kiosks;
- We are calling upon the law enforcement agencies to support community based endeavours to ensure that community stores in particular respect the “at door” inspection to support the vigilance of COVID-19 cases which continue to grow.
- We call for vigilance, we call for adherence to mask wearing and hand sanitisation.
We continue to note with distress the continuous steamrolling of the reopening of schools despite objections from teachers and concerns from parents regarding the efficacy of anti-COVID-19 measures, poor salaries and working conditions in schools. We amplify with distress reports that indicate that learner attendance rate at inception of resumption of schools was at 95% and the teacher attendance rate at the same time was 39% of total teachers however as of the Cabinet announcement this week these rates have declined to 32.02% and 27.16% respectively.
We call Government to prioritise the resolution of the matter of persisting industrial actions and the incapacitation of teachers. We call upon Government to :
- Engage in progressive dialogue to address the outstanding issues within the education sector.
- Deeply consider the impact of women and girls in light of ongoing circumstances
- Demonstrate commitment to address root problems in the sector which threaten to unravel all intended positive outcomes in resuming the education sector during the pandemic.
We remain concerned at policy measures that are not robustly supported by the financial and operation mechanism to bring practical progress to the lives of Zimbabwean communities without undue hardship.
We note further the Reports by Government indicating that schools need to procure 10 million washable masks from NatPharm which is facing significant strain in meeting demand and failing to supply adequately.
We note that the Phase 3 re-opening requires three masks per learner and per teacher yet the much-touted supply of the masks by schools has been hindered by the late payment for the masks by government affecting school-based production supply chains.
- We call upon Treasury to expedite payments for critical supplies even as we question why the delays exist in the first place on a national programs of such a scale.
- We call upon the Government to desist from a “full steam ahead” approach when we are aware that girls are disproportionality negatively impacted by being in schools that have limited to zero supervision and increase the vulnerabilities of adolescent girls to risk.
- We note with concern that the reopening of schools appears as a strategy to simply dump learner in schools and have no regard to the quality of care and quality of education outcomes that are expected.
We note the changes in procedures for the returnees from South Africa arriving at Beitbridge Border Posts. We note that only 5 buses will be cleared for travel, by Zimbabwean consulates to the Beitbridge Border Post from any point in South Africa. We note further that all passengers intending to travel on such cleared buses must present COVID-19 free certificates. We note with distress that these certificates are limited to 48 hours validity.
- We urge the consulates to continue to undertake their clearance process as a valuable service to the Zimbabwean community and urge increased efficiency and effectiveness in managing this process to the positive experience of the returnees.
- We call for the border management operations and systems to maintain high levels of inter-governmental coordination and support to the travelling public that does not increase vulnerabilities of women and children.
- We note that 48 hour validity of COVID-19 certificate is unreasonable as some destinations in South Africa internally may legitimately take the same period to travel prior to arrival at Border. We call for an extension of COVID-19 free certificate to 72 hours.
- We call for the similar advisories regarding other border posts to be stated publicly to avoid confusion to the traveling public.
We commend the ongoing training of healthcare workers on mental health in Bulawayo and Harare. Further, whilst we commend the efforts of the Mental Health Unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, and the creation of mental health provincial posts, we note with distress the need to ensure increased direct budgetary support of the services and program under these posts. We continue to note with distress the fact that the country presently operates with only 18 psychiatrists (17 of them in Harare) or approximately 0.1 per 100,000 population, 917 psychiatric nurses (6.5 per 100,000) and 6 psychologists (0.04 per 100,000).
- We call for the raising of standards in public health mental health service to international standards
- We call for increasing budgetary support provided to public mental health initiatives which have been as low as 0.042% of the National Budget or USD 0.13 cents per capita each year.
- We call for increased funding for medication, treatment programs, staffing and robust promotion of wellness in both psychiatric hospitals and community-based care.
- We call upon the Government to ensure a strong implementation model for universal health coverage through ensuring accessibility of mental health services to communities in a devolved and easily accessible manner
- We note the utilisation of the military healthcare personnel in public hospitals and whilst we note the positive contribution that the uniformed services make to public programs we continue to call for strengthen and sustain civic interventions in the health care sector.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe