BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
TEACHERS unions have pleaded with government to scale up safety measures at schools to avoid further exposure of learners to COVID-19 after three schools recently recorded a new wave of infections.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa on Tuesday said 77 cases were recorded at Sacred Heart Primary School in Umzingwane, Matabeleland South province, 46 at George Silundika School in Matabeleland North and three at Thornhill High School in the Midlands province.
Sacred Heart secondary and primary schools have been battling a surge in COVID-19 cases since schools opened for the first term and government has not given an explanation on the outbreak.
Recently, the Health ministry said it had contained COVID-19 cases at the school, while noting that most of the cases were asymptomatic or mild to moderate.
As concern rises over COVID-19 infections and with winter setting in, teachers unions said another prolonged schools’ closure had to be avoided.
“We should scale up our safety measures to avoid another schools closure. Learners have lost out on access to education for months now,” said Obert Masaraure, president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe.
Schools were closed for the better part of 2020.
Online learning and radio lessons failed to bridge the gap owing to the digital divide and lack of enabling telecommunications infrastructure in some remote areas.
“The COVID19 crisis can only be contained through strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs) both in schools and when commuting,” Masaraure added.
Mutsvangwa also emphasised the same in her post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday.
“Cabinet reiterates the position that there should be strict adherence to COVID-19 guidelines by all institutions of learning and those found flouting these will be disciplined accordingly,” she said.
“Cabinet wishes to restate that any boarding school learners who test positive for COVID-19 should be isolated at their respective schools and should not be taken home.”
The SOPs which provide for prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 were announced in September 2020.
Under the SOPs, sports activities are banned, hot seating is discouraged, frequent disinfection of schools is mandatory while a maximum of 35 learners are permitted in a classroom to maintain physical distancing.
The SOPs also indicate that teachers should be trained to be health co-ordinators to monitor health-related matters at learning institutions, temperature checks should be conducted while schools are mandated to have isolation rooms for pupils with high body temperatures.
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