TEACHER unions have emphasised the need for regular testing of learners, educators and non-teaching staff to contain Covid-19 amid reports of an increase in confirmed cases at schools countrywide.
According to the Primary and Secondary Education ministry, more than a dozen schools have registered Covid-19 cases with Matabeleland learning institutions named as the worst affected.
Sacred Heart Primary and Sacred Heart Secondary in Esigodini, Matabeleland South, have recorded over 130 confirmed cases.
While the Primary and Secondary Education ministry claims it has contained the spread of the pandemic, teacher unions placed the blame squarely on government officials for “blindly accepting people into schools without mandatory testing.”
“We warned government against blindly accepting people into schools without mandatory testing. The reckless opening of schools was just a recipe for turning schools into super spreaders. We insisted on capacitating schools to fully adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs), government never took heed,” argued Obert Masaraure (pictured), the president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz).
The SOPs, which provide for the prevention, early detection and control of Covid-19, were announced in September 2020.
“However, national compliance with SOPs in schools stands at a pathetic 25%. They (government) are not ready to fund safety in the face of Covid-19. Unfortunately, the cost of our reckless conduct in schools will outweigh all the savings. Regular testing cannot be avoided if we want to contain Covid-19 in our crowded schools. Secondly, we should capacitate our schools to fully adhere to SOPs,” Masaraure added.
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 class to maintain physical distancing.
The SOPs also indicate that teachers must be trained to become health co-ordinators by the government to monitor healthcare-related matters in learning institutions; temperature checks will be conducted and schools will be mandated to have isolation rooms for those found with high temperature.
The director responsible for information and advocacy in rhe Primary and Secondary Education ministry, Toungana Ndoro, however argued that the ministry in partnership with the Health and Child Care ministry is “managing” to contain Covid-19 despite the shortcomings of the ministry in ensuring every school has an isolation centre among, other SOP needs.
“Through SOPs, we are managing the Covid-19 situation which had risen in a few schools. We are looking at the cases in schools on a case-by-case basis and what we are doing is that if a school has many cases, we quarantine the school,” Ndoro said.
“Across the country, we have recorded roughly 10 schools that have recorded Covid-19 cases this term. Matabeleland South has been the worst hit but in other schools they are recording a case each.”
Sacred Heart mission was closed to outsiders after a surge in confirmed cases.
The country’s Covid-19 vaccination drive has entered the second phase targeting teachers, security and judicial sectors, among other groupings. The government has authorised the use of China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, Russia’s Sputnik V and Covaxin from India.
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