Zimbabwe is one of the Southern African countries that are prone to a variety of hazards, risks, crises and disasters of different categorizations and nature. The social, economic, environmental and political consequences of disasters are frequently complex. Disasters disrupt the vital social fabric of communities,economic activities, threaten livelihood and set back economic growth and development. As has been witnessed in the COVID-19 pandemic, disasters and crises destroy and disrupt essential public services and infrastructure such health and education.
It is therefore essential that disaster response activities should lay the foundations for the subsequent recovery of the affected population. Beyond responding to crisis events, it is equally important that communities and countries alike draw lessons from past disasters and be proactive on preparing for future crises and disasters based on an integrated multi-sectoral approach. As has been the case world over, the COVID-19 pandemic -has ravished every facet of society in Zimbabwe in an unprecedented manner. Due to the mobility restrictions instituted in a bid to flatten the COVID Infection curve, the education sector has been hard hit with the closure of schools spanning close to a full school calendar year. The closures have forced government and other interested stakeholders to think alternative ways of upholding children’s right to education which is universally applicable even during a crisis. Unfortunately, existent crevices within the education sector were exposed and left millions of children without accesses to their fundamental human right –Education. From an educators’ viewpoint, alternatives for learning fostered have been impractical and unsafe in the least. As vaccination commenced signaling a positive stride towards managing the COVID pandemic, schools have resumed operations.
As the Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Unions (FOZEU) representing eight teachers’ unions, we believe that the time is ripe to have conversation on how to guard the education sector against the impact of future crises and disasters and ensure that teaching and learning continues during emergency situations. The need to protect, rebuild, and strengthen education systems as well as provide quality education to children everywhere should sit at the center of these discussions. Education should be explicitly listed as a priority in all revised Humanitarian Response Plans and response strategies. As active and key proponents of Zimbabwe’s education system, the teachers represented by a consortium of unions that makeup FOZEU have drafted this paper to proffer aspirations and proposal for Education in Emergencies that can and should be considered by government and other stakeholders.
This paper is based on the educator’s expertise and experience of the COVID pandemic and other past crises.This paper embodies FOZEU’s belief in the fact that the pursuit of sustainable development should be founded on putting Education first at all times.
Disaster preparedness in Zimbabwe
Admittedly, human risk from all forms of hazards cannot be eliminated completely, but it can be reduced through systematic disaster risk reduction (DRR) approaches that can be scientifically applied for minimizing vulnerability and building resilience in nations through multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional measures. To mitigate and prepare for such hazards, the Government of Zimbabwe enacted the Civil Protection Act as disaster legislation and created several institutions such as the Department of Civil Protection which is charged with the coordination and management of disasters and hazards.
The Department of Civil Protection falls under the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works & National Housing. The Department of Civil Protection (DCP) administers the Civil Protection Act Chapter 10:06 of 1989. The key result area of the Department is Disaster Risk Management(DRM) which entails a spectrum of activities involving prevention, mitigation of disaster risks, preparedness planning, timely early warning,and response to rehabilitate affected elements. The mandate of DCP is overall coordination of Disaster Risk Management institutions drawn from the public and private sectors including development partners. An institutional arrangement at national, provincial, district and in a few areas at community level exists and is functional, albeit with capacity challenges (financial, human, material,and equipment).
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