HomeEditorial CommentProtect students as schools re-open

Protect students as schools re-open

SCHOOLS are reopening next week amid concerns over the novel coronavirus that delayed the school term by several months.The schools calendar has been distorted since Zimbabwe recorded its first Covid-19 case in March 2020.SCHOOLS are reopening next week amid concerns over the novel coronavirus that delayed the school term by several months.

Candid Comment
Brian Chitemba

Under an eased lockdown, examination classes start on Monday while the rest of students go back to school a week later.

Students have spent too much time at home. Some, especially in urban areas, have benefited from the advantages of technology through e-learning.

But the rural folk have suffered the brunt of lack of access of smart phones, laptops, computers and internet.

According to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), Zimbabwe’s internet penetration stands at 59,9% and mobile penetration is estimated at 87,7% as at the end of 2020. Adverse effects of low internet access in rural schools were exposed in the 2020 Grade Seven results where many schools recorded zero percent pass rate. That is disturbing. Is the nation going to raise a generation of academic dimwits?

The Grade 7 pass rate stood at 37,11 % in 2020, dropping from 46,9% recorded in 2019, representing a 9,79% fall. There are a host of factors attributed to the sharp drop in the pass rate.

The pupils cannot be blamed for performing dismally. The teachers too can be exonerated.  Educators have complained over lack of attractive remuneration.

The teachers do not have the necessary tools to ensure students are fully equipped to meet the demands in class.

Thus, there are key issues to be addressed; Covid-19 spread, internet access in schools and conditions of service for teachers or lecturers.

Medical experts have chillingly warned of a third wave in winter if complacency sets in. Government launched a vaccination on February 18, and so far about 35 000 frontline workers — health personnel, security officers, journalists and vulnerable groups like the over 60 years — have been inoculated.

The 35 000 workers were vaccinated by the Chinese donated Sinopharm. The Asian giant offered 200 000 doses to Harare to assist in fight Covid-19. More vaccines are expected from Russia, India, the United Kingdom and China as the country pushes towards vaccinating its 60% of its estimated 14 million population to achieve herd immunity — which is indirect protection from infectious disease that happens when a population is immune.

As schools re-open, teachers, lectures and students should be vaccinated if the country is to avert a third wave. Vaccinating the teachers and leaving out the pupils, can still put families and communities in danger of contracting and spreading the deadly virus.

This, then means that there is need for speedy sourcing and inoculation of the population before winter to avert a third wave. A repetition of the January deadly spread and hourly deaths are undesirable.

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