Herald Reporter

Private schools that reopen before 28 July will be deregistered without further notice, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said yesterday following reports that some schools were planning to reopen early.

Government says it was important for all schools, never mind their status, to follow the regulations and preserve the lives of students.

Schools are presently closed as a measure to reduce the risk of infection by Covid-19, and Cabinet has approved the reopening of schools on 28 July to allow time to disinfect classrooms, make masks and source other personal protective equipment.

In a statement yesterday, Minister Mathema said there would be serious repercussions if the schools reported to be planning an earlier reopening disregarded the law.

“The ministry would like to warn some authorities of trust schools, private schools that flout the directive that it will not hesitate to deregister their institutions should they continue to defy Government directives on the reopening of schools.”

Exam classes have started going to school for the June exams. Examination classes — Upper Sixth for A-level, Form Four of O-level and Grade 7 — will then be allowed to reopen on 28 July. But there have been reports that some private schools have indicated that they were pressing ahead with an earlier reopening of schools since they had the required protective equipment and disinfectants to fight Covid-19.

In the middle of June, Government held a closed-door meeting with representatives from the Zimbabwe Independent Private Schools Association and speaking after the meeting, Minister Mathema said he was impressed by the progress made by most private schools in preparing to reopen under Covid-19. The meeting, which was conducted in the presence of officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, was part of wider consultations that were being carried out by the ministry.

Zimbabwe Independent Private Schools Association chairperson Mrs Salome Mutsinze said the meeting was necessitated by the general consensus on adverse effects on the prolonged closure of schools due to Covid-19.

Zimbabwe Independent Private Schools Association chairperson Mrs Salome Mutsinze

The agenda of the meeting was to appraise the ministry on the degree of preparedness for safe reopening of member schools in a phased approach starting with examination classes.

In line with the WHO guidelines on the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, some of the highlights on safety procedures and precautions to be enforced include rapid testing of all staff and learners, regular disinfection of facilities, temperature checks thrice a day and ensuring there is a response team and isolation facilities in case of suspected cases.

Mrs Mutsinze said the effects of the schools’ closure on pupils are child abuse, child labour, unwanted pregnancies and marriages.