Next year’s examination classes — Grade Six, Form Three and Form Five — return to school today, with the Government assuring parents that all necessary precautions have been taken to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection.
This follows the return of three examination classes four weeks ago near the end of September, with the precautions so far working, thus allowing the second phase with the final nine classes returning on November 9.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education set standard operating procedures for all schools to guide the safe reopening of schools in the Covid-19 environment.
Ahead of the reopening today, parents and guardians yesterday were taking their children enrolled in boarding schools in Form Three and Form Five to the designated bus stops set by the schools.
Scores of pupils converged at the Harare Exhibition Park, the Civic Centre car parks off Abdel Gamal Nasser Road and Mbare Musika in Harare and Bulawayo City Hall car park and between 8th and 9th Avenue along George Silundika Street in Bulawayo waiting for transport.
Some parents made last-minute shopping before their children boarded their school buses. Pupils were sanitised and had temperatures checked before boarding.
In Gweru, Grade Six, Form Three and Five pupils at boarding schools such as Stanley Primary School, Regina Mundi and Thornhill High School arrived at school yesterday afternoon ahead of today’s reopening.
Some school authorities were cashing in on the Covid-19 by forcing parents and guardians to buy school-branded masks for as much as US$5.
Parents who spoke to The Herald in Harare yesterday complained that some schools had unilaterally increased fees, a move they said was not justified considering that the country was not in an inflationary environment.
Some parents implored school authorities not to turn away children whose parents had not yet paid fees.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said Government was prepared for the second phase of schools reopening.
He said the ministry would continue exercising caution in view of Covid-19 as it did with the running of the Zimsec June examinations and first phase of schools opening.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communications Mr Tongoona Ndoro said: “The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is ready to provide a wholesome education for all Zimbabweans through an education system that is competence-driven and that is accessible, affordable and enables citizens to participate in the socio-economic transformation of the nation,” he said.
Mr Ndoro said it was illegal for schools to demand personal protective equipment from parents.
“We are investigating the issue where schools are said to be forcing parents to buy face masks at exorbitant prices,” he said.
Teachers and pupils are expected to quickly adapt to the new normal to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is mandatory for learners to wear masks while handshakes, hugs and sharing of desks and textbooks have been banned as part of Covid-19 prevention measures.