Government has scrapped Second Term school fees, while 6 000 teachers are being recruited ahead of the phased reopening of schools starting tomorrow.
This comes amid reports that a crash programme to ensure learners complete their syllabuses and the suspension of sporting activities for the remainder of the year were among interventions being considered to ensure learners graduate to the next grades.
The recruitment of teachers will cater for classes that have been trimmed in line with health guidelines to fight Covid-19.
Before schools closed at the end of March, some classes had over 50 pupils, but according to the Standard Operating Procedure for the Prevention and Management of Covid-19 drafted by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, a standard-sized classroom must not exceed 35 learners.
The learners must also be seated a metre apart.
Public schools open on Tuesday for classes sitting Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) examinations as the country resumes direct tuition.
Next year’s examination classes — Grade 6, Form 3 and Lower Six — will resume studies on October 26, and on November 9, ECD A and B, Grades 1 to 5 and Forms 1 and 2 will return to school.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema told The Sunday Mail that Government had adopted extraordinary measures to allow learners to proceed to the next grades.
“There will be strategies this year and next year, like suspension of sports, introduction of weekend classes and crash programmes that will be put in place to ensure that students catch up with time that was lost.
“In some instances, teachers have to emphasise and concentrate on the key concepts so that even those slow learners grasp the concepts. Teachers know how to handle such scenarios.
“There will be gradual catching up as we go and revisiting those areas that might need to. We do not want to clog and disrupt the whole system even up to tertiary education, so we are letting them proceed to the next level.”
Local schools and colleges closed on March 24 as the Government took pre-emptive measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Examinations for all the other grades, said Minister Mathema, will be in December to ensure schools open normally in January 2021.
“Schools will close in December for everyone except for the Zimsec examination classes that will have papers that overlap to next year,” he said.
“We are recruiting 6 000 teachers starting this term to cover for the workload which is coming with the trimming of classes.
“We have 9 000 schools in the country, so we need the teachers to take the extra classes that will be created,” Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communications and advocacy, Mr Taungana Ndoro, told our Bulawayo Bureau yesterday.
“School authorities must follow Government directives.
“The official school calendar was Term One. So, there was no Term Two in the first place, and the Government position is that no school must therefore demand fees for a term that was not announced and approved by Government.
Provincial Education Directors (PEDs) submitted updates and progress reports to the ministry on preparations to reopen schools. The reports helped Government to procure and deliver personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and parliamentarians recently undertook an extensive tour around the country to assess the extent of preparedness of public schools to resume lessons under new health protocols.
The National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm), he said, is today expected to finalise the distribution of PPE to schools across the country.
“NatPharm has been tasked to supply PPE to schools and we have given them a timeframe that they should have delivered by Sunday (today) to ensure that every student gets PPE by the end of next week (this week).”
Minister Mathema said Government and its partners, which include churches, Plan International and UNICEF, would continue delivering PPE to schools throughout the term.
National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH) chairperson Mrs Cynthia Khumalo confirmed that schools had begun receiving PPEs.
Educationist Dr Cephas Nziramasanga said there is need for a robust strategy to ensure all work is covered and learners grasp all the key concepts.
However, Dr Nziramasanga expressed concern over the practicality of Government’s crash programme.
“From my point of view, I do not think it is attainable for a teacher to complete a seven-month syllabus in two months.
“I suggest that in January teachers restructure the syllabi in a way that will cover work for the previous grade and present one.
“This will require a lot of work from both the teachers and students. This will ensure some form of continuity.”
Dr Nziramasanga said teachers would need to take up continuous assessments and introduce practical lessons in all subjects to ensure the child’s record is kept, while ensuring that the child is grasping all the concepts.
“By March, they will have finished work from the previous grade and continue with the present one.”