THE recent announcement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa regarding the re-opening of schools to examination classes has left most forward-thinking educationists shell shocked.
Re-opening of schools while hordes of people from the diaspora are being bussed in from COVID-19-infested regions might be just as good as opening the pandora’s box.
Sadly, this announcement is in direct conflict with the situation obtaining on the ground, where schools are being used as COVID-19 quarantine centres.
This raises the simple question: Where are these classes expected to be carried out if these institutions are being used as quarantine centres?
Taking a closer look at the Zimbabwean education set-up, vis -a- vis the World Health Organisation guidelines on social distancing, we can already see that there is conflict.
Average classes have a teacher-pupil ratio of about 1:60 and such a large class cannot ensure effective social distancing.
The alternative would be to split the class which in turn requires the employment of another teacher.
Without effective social distancing in schools, these institutions will easily turn into high-infection zones with catastrophic results.
Availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) in schools is another area of concern.
The way government has handled industry by merely giving instruction without the financial backing with regards to the issue of testing employees, leaves a lot to be desired.
Schools, most of which have dried up coffers, are in no position to avail PPE to educators and pupils, leaving this burden in the hands of government.
Teachers, who are the main characters in the administration of classes, lack the technical and critical skills regarding the detection and handling of COVID-19 cases.
Before schools re-open, teachers in all their wisdom need to be trained in effectively and safely handling themselves as well as their students with regards to COVID-19.
We call upon government to sit down with relevant health and education authorities and consult widely before opening schools.