Schools reopen on September 28 for Zimsec examination classes with the exams starting on December 1, Cabinet decided yesterday.
Cambridge examination classes can start a fortnight earlier, on September 14, with Cambridge examination dates being earlier as they are set internationally by a British-based board.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after the Cabinet meeting that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education was working closely with other ministries and stakeholders to guarantee the safety of pupils and staff during the examinations period.
“Standard operating procedures have been distributed to all schools,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said preparations for the holding of examinations were in progress with consultations involving relevant stakeholders ongoing.
Schools were closed late in March ahead of the initial 21-day national lockdown, but reopened briefly for June examinations.
Fifteen stakeholders have already made their submissions, with nine others expected to make theirs shortly.
Stakeholders that have been consulted include teachers’ unions, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, the Association of School Development Committees, the Independent Colleges in Zimbabwe, the Private Schools Association of Zimbabwe, and the Association of Trust Schools.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said later that the major concerns of teachers were ensuring that schools had adequate hygiene and that there was adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for pupils and teachers.
“To us, the issue of safety comes first. Our concern is, does the Government have capacity to provide a hygienic environment that will not allow the spread of the pandemic?”
The second problem was remuneration of teachers, with Dr Ndlovu noting that illegal transport operators were charging in foreign currency, although Zupco — which runs services within cities — charges subsidised fares in local currency.
Past opening proposals had Zupco providing buses to get pupils and staff to schools.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Dr Takavafira Zhou wanted all pupils, teachers and ancillary staff tested before schools reopen.
He said the remuneration of teachers had to be addressed, but cast doubt on the practicality of reopening and preparing students in time for them to write examinations this year.
Meanwhile, Minister Mutsvangwa said the Government was finalising modalities for the reopening of airports for passenger and tourist traffic to support the resumption of the tourism sector.
She said the plan was to start with the resumption of domestic flights and then move to international flights.
Cabinet also approved the resumption of the rest of tourism operations, including boat operations.
Cabinet was briefed by the chairperson of the Covid-19 Inter-Ministerial Taskforce, Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, on the situation of the pandemic in the country.
Zimbabwe now has 6 559 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 203 deaths, although recoveries have reached 5 241.
“Cabinet acknowledged that despite the surge in positive local cases, the majority of the cases of local transmission are mild to moderate, with a recovery rate of about 80 percent.
“Most of these cases are managed at home and in isolation facilities. The national testing strategy however will continue to prioritise the testing of all health care workers and other frontline personnel, inclusive of public transport drivers,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said Treasury had released US$20 million for the procurement of testing kits that have been in short supply.