THE Government is considering scrapping this year’s second term and ordering that when schools open, primary and secondary school pupils will learn continuously until they close in December, Sunday News has learnt.
In addition, the Government has ordered schools to start preparing for the reopening and a team of senior officials from both the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Health and Child Care was last week on the ground to assess preparedness of the school opening. This year schools opened for face-to-face learning on 15 March and closed for holidays on 4 June for the first term. They were supposed to open for the second term on 28 June and close on 10 September, while the third term was supposed to start on 4 October and end on 17 December.
However, schools have failed to open for the second term due to the rise in Covid-19 cases which prompted the Government to impose a Level Four Lockdown. On Tuesday last week, President Mnangagwa extended the lockdown by a further two weeks, meaning that another review will only be done after 24 August, just 17 days before the initially set date of 10 September when schools were set to close for the second term.
Although Director of Information and Advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Mr Taungana Ndoro was not at liberty to comment on the issue, sources said the ministry has already agreed that it was impossible to run two more terms this year. Last year, the Government was also forced to cancel term two after a long layoff due to lockdowns.
“As a ministry all what I can say is that we are ready for opening and we are just waiting for the President to announce the opening dates. I can’t comment on the issue of second term because it is up to the President but it’s true that from our initial calendar most of the days of second term have been eaten away by the lockdown,” said Mr Ndoro.
Mr Ndoro said most schools they visited last week showed that they were ready to start face-to-face lessons. Most schools have been conducting online lessons.
“The issue does not only depend on the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education but heath experts, we could be ready but if the cases are high then it is up to the health experts to give guidance. However, from the survey we carried out last week, most schools are ready. We are encouraged at one school, Pamushana in Masvingo, all the teachers and staff were vaccinated and we encourage schools and teachers to emulate that.”
The latest development comes as the country has upped its vaccination drive as it pushes to attain the 60 percent head immunity, with Zimbabwe on Friday reaching another milestone after surpassing the two million mark of people that have received their first Covid-19 jabs. According to Government, just over 22 percent of the population has to date got their jabs.
This comes as the Government has noted the recent reduction of numbers of Covid-19 cases as a positive move, but warned the public not to relax, as this could lead the country into a fourth wave of the virus. The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro, told Sunday News that the country has noted a sharp increase in people wanting to be inoculated against the pandemic. He assured the nation that they have enough stocks as they had already purchased 12 million doses.
“We have enough stocks, we bought 12 million doses and the uptake has increased so much that we need to move very fast in terms of inoculating the public. What we have done as Government is that we have these vaccines being given in central, provincial and district hospitals and over 1 800 clinics.
In the next week or two we are expecting another 1,5 million doses, we also have in stock just over 1,5 million doses, we have distributed about 5,3 million and we will keep on pushing hard,” said Dr Mangwiro.
He said their goal was to attain herd immunity soon, which will go a long way in the country’s Covid-19 containment measures. Dr Mangwiro said they were impressed by the numbers of people that were coming to seek the jabs.
“The uptake is so much that we had to rope in even private players to also give out the vaccines as well as the uniformed forces including the army, police and the prisons. We have even said those (nurses) that have retired should come back and assist us in the vaccination programme and we are definitely pushing forward. We also have outreach teams which will continue to support us where the stations are difficult for the elderly to travel, which will help us also attain the 60 percent herd immunity very soon and we will continue pressing hard,” he said.
According to figures from the Ministry of Health and Child Care as of Friday, 2 013 340 people had got their first jab while 1 179 678 had got their second jab. Meanwhile, the National Covid-19 Taskforce Co-ordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva told Sunday News that despite a decrease in the number of cases and deaths being reported throughout the country of late, there was a need for communities to remain vigilant to prevent new infections.
Last week (as at Friday) saw 3 210 new cases being reported and 247 deaths, compared to 7 010 cases and 294 deaths, in the previous week. Last Tuesday, Cabinet noted that there was a 42 percent decrease in new cases, and indicated that the infection prevention and control measures were yielding results. Dr Mahomva emphasised the need for continued adherence to national lockdown regulations if the country is to continue with the trend of declining cases and deaths.
“The message now, really, is for the population to remain focused. One of the reasons why we are in this third wave is because people relaxed, complacency after the second wave affected us. We do not want that to happen once again because if it does, we might find ourselves hit by a fourth wave,” she said.
The only exception in the decline of cases is reported to be Midlands Province which is experiencing another surge of the virus. Concerted efforts are being made to address the situation in that province as well as in other known Covid-19 hotspots, she said.
As of Friday, the country recorded 754 new infections and 26 deaths. Yesterday, there were 345 new cases and 17 deaths. Cumulatively, 119 853 cases and 4 090 deaths have been reported. The national recovery rate stands at 80 percent. Work to increase bed capacity at several Covid-19 treatment centres throughout the country is also ongoing, officials said.