The Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI) would like to commend the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MOPSE) for prompting the phased reopening of schools that commenced on the 30th of August 2021. We fully support this move noting that it has almost been a year cumulatively with children out of school, since the first COVID-19 case was recorded in Zimbabwe.
Since March 2020, the MoPSE with support from partners have been working tirelessly to ensure learning continues despite the ragging pandemic. Alternative learning interventions like radio and television lessons, printed study packs, learning passport platform and other online learning platforms were put in place to ensure learning continues.
Whilst acknowledging these noble efforts to make education accessible to all, ECOZI notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely exposed and widened the gaps in our education sector and societies in general. Some learners fail to access quality education during the COVID-19 induced lockdowns because of lack of access to radios, internet connection and data, mobile phones and technological gadgets for online lessons and a support system to monitor the attendance of online/TV/Radio lessons. It is therefore our collective duty to bridge these wide gaps.
We note with concern that, schools were reopened rather abruptly, parents, students and teachers were not fully prepared for this move. As such, for the phased reopening of schools in the face of COVID-19 exercise to be a success, there is a need to ensure that schools are safe, children have enough masks, there is water for washing hands, there is a well-equipped health station in every school manned by trained personnel in case of emergency and that there are deliberate exercises to reach out to children who have since dropped out of school due to various reasons. We therefore recommend that the MoPSE with support from partners and the private sector,
- Procure enough PPE for students, teachers and non-teaching staff in all institutions.
- Improve the welfare of teachers and their upskilling to ensure quality learning and teaching in public or government schools.
- Train all food handling personnel in schools, both boarding and day schools on Covid-19 safety protocols relating to food handling.
- Ensure that there is sufficient running water in all public schools to protect learners and teachers from contracting Covid 19.
- Revise the examination timetable for 2021 to early 2022, so that the syllabus can be completed, and the students can prepare accordingly.
- Extend the examination registration period and commit more resources to subsidize the registration fees for all learners.
- Establish a COVID-19 education relief fund to subsidise the termly fees and levies to be paid by each parent during this difficult situation
- Reduce Class sizes in public schools to achieve quality teaching and learning and physical distancing in classrooms.
We continue to call for the various Education stakeholders in Zimbabwe, including the government, the Private sector, the international community, religious entities, CSOs, NGOs, philanthropists, and individuals to commit to pooling resources together for education in Zimbabwe. It is our collective duty to ensure that the education sector in Zimbabwe thrives and produces a skilled citizenry that is critical for the sustainable development of our country.