Staff Reporter – The Zimbabwe Daily

Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions are causing a lot of contentions on whether or not they should remain opened.

However, with the surge in COVID-19 cases some members of the civic society have felt the need for the learning institutions to be closed.

“We recognize the need to fulfill and rescue the 2020 academic calendar but we are also conscious of the fact that we can only learn if we are alive. Recently we have heard of an unconfirmed COVID-19 case at Chinhoyi University of Technology.

In the absence of standard protective clothing provided by the government and institutions, it is only noble that institutions of higher learning pause accepting more classes on campus to avoid putting students and staff at risk. We can rescue the academic calendar but not lost lives.

However, the alternative would be to replace contact learning with online learning. That would however pose the same problems we faced at the beginning of the lockdown. Online learning excludes many students because of data prices. Institutions would have to provide data for students or make online learning sites accessible at zero rate.

Government has been promising a lot while forgetting to deliver. The Ministry agreed to a deal that offered cheaper data bundles to students. We had hoped government had a plan before the lockdown but unfortunately there was no coherent strategy,” said Tapiwanashe Chiriga, Zimbabwe National Student Union (ZINASU)’s secretary general.

However, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ)’s chairperson, Dr. Takavafira Zhou said opening up tertiary institutions would help the government in finding innovative ways of curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I certainly don’t see anything wrong in institutions of higher learning remaining open provided they meet WHO standards with respect to testing of all lecturers, students, and ancillary staff before opening. There is also need to clean and disinfect all institutions that were used as quarantine centres. In essence, students in institutions of higher learning are Majors in terms of the law who can in particular reason in a rational manner in terms of procedures and standards to abate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I however, hope government will invest more resources in order to abate the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

However, we certainly need to look into the possibility of existing in a world infested with COVID-19 and opening tertiary institutions is a way of finding mitigating measures of  copying with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s however possible to suspend learning and resort to e-learning but the challenge is that our resources and connectivity are pathetic. We however need to be innovative and dynamic and find ways to teach students during this COVID-19 pandemic particularly the use of class and subject WhatsApp groups,” said Dr. Zhou