Government has released a school calendar which will see primary and secondary schools closing in December with learners proceeding to the next level in 2021 despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement said schools will close on 18 December and open on 4 January 2020. This was confirmed by the Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Ambassador Cain Mathema at a post-cabinet media briefing held this Tuesday in Harare. Speaking to our sister paper The Herald, the Education Minister also confirmed that Government has put around 10 000 qualified, but unemployed, teachers on standby to replace those that are holding the State to ransom by engaging in an illegal industrial action.

He said that measures had been put in place to employ the bulk of qualified, but jobless, teachers. Some teachers did not report for duty when examination classes resumed on Monday, citing incapacitation and lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs) at schools.

Although the first phase of the reopening of schools started safely this week, with no pupil testing positive for Covid-19 following sound measures to insulate stakeholders from contracting the deadly virus, some teachers continued with their class boycott yesterday.

This prompted the Government to come up with emergency measures to ensure learning was not disrupted. Ambassador Mathema said the Government would not allow a situation where pupils who had lost precious time during the Covid-19 lockdown, continued to be disenfranchised.

“Negotiations between Government and its workers are ongoing and we hope that they will soon find common ground to improve the lives of civil servants. Some teachers might want to hold the Government to ransom by not reporting for duty waiting for the completion of these negotiations. What we are saying is that learners have not been going to school since March and the Government will not allow a situation where they continue to be disadvantaged.

“We have at least 10 000 teachers who are unemployed and if the crunch comes, we will be left with no option but to quickly employ some of those teachers. Schooling has to go on and we will employ if there is a need to,” said Ambassador Mathema.

The government recently availed a total of $600 million for disbursement to needy schools to improve sanitation and enable them to reopen safely without risking a spike in Covid-19 infections.

It also ordered those who did not meet the prescribed standards not to re-open.

Ambassador Mathema said the June public examinations were held successfully, and to date after this week’s re-opening, no student had tested positive for Covid-19, a sign of adequate adherence to the prescribed protocols.-The Herald/ZBC