Education Minister Cain Mathema has opposed his Deputy who early this week expressed fears that there will be chaos when schools fully open next week as the schools are generally not ready to receive learners.
Primary and Secondary Education deputy minister Edgar Moyo yesterday admitting that they don’t have enough teachers to cater for such huge volumes.
Schools are expected to open on Monday for Forms 1 and 2, Grades 1 to 5 and Early Childhood Development, meaning they will be operating at full throttle after closing in March due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Teachers refused to return to work when schools reopened September for examination classes citing poor salaries.
However, despite teachers’ unions and other stakeholders advising government not to open schools yet, the ministry went on to announce a phased reopening of schools.
“The successful re-opening of phase three would require more teachers to attend classes because their numbers currently are insufficient to handle large volumes of students who will be coming in, which is about three million,” Moyo said.
Minister Mathema however says that when the last classes go back to school next week they will find that adequate measures informed by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines have been put in place to ensure safety of pupils.
The Minister said in keeping with social distancing rules, the classes would be broken into smaller groups handled by additional teachers already employed at schools, while examinations will see pupils spread across more classrooms or sitting in spacious halls to minimise chances of infection.
Mathema said schools will not be allowed to crowd learners as some schools will do hot-seating while others students will be given specific dates for coming to school.
“Let us not get the impression that there is anarchy. There is no anarchy at schools. We are ready to welcome all learners back to school. It is all systems go, we are starting our exams in December.
“Let us allow the school heads to manage the schools as best as they can under the situation. We have recruited 5 300 more teachers. So it is those teachers who will assist us to manage the situation,” said Minister Mathema.
He said the ministry has done what needed to be done in terms of adherence to WHO protocols, including breaking classes into smaller groups and ensuring masks and sanitisers are available and used.
“What we want is to see all teachers at work. We are not happy that some teachers are not at work. We want them back to manage learners under the Covid-19 situation,” said Minister Mathema.
“Government through the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Ministry is negotiating with all civil servants’ representatives and we hope the results of these negotiations will see all the teachers coming back to work.
“We have managed the situation under Covid-19. Let’s hope they will agree with the Government. We want the teachers back, the learners want them back and the parents want them back.”
But the industrial action by some teachers will have an impact.
“We will definitely experience a serious shortage of teachers to successfully attend to the extra classes created by social distancing requirements,” said National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) president Mr Arthur Maposa.
National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH) president Mrs Cynthia Khumalo said there is also a challenge of adequate teachers reporting for duty.
Meanwhile, most private schools have been adhering to Government’s laid down protocols. Dr Tapera Chikandiwa, director of Higher Achievers School said they have further broken classes to ensure social distancing protocols are maintained.
Source: State Media