Back to school: Another messy affair

August 31, 2021

Tawanda Majoni

Somewhat, it’s quite a relief for parents and guardians kids will be going back to school after almost five months at home due to a Covid-19 induced sabbatical. But that’s just about where the good news stops.

Government has announced that exam classes will resume on 30 August, while the rest of the learners will be back in class a week after. The kids closed school in early June and were supposed to return at the end of that month. That didn’t happen because the Covid-19 caseload was surging and, with that came a flurry of lockdowns.

The last two-week lockdown was decreed last week. Interestingly, the extension included a continued hiatus on school reopening. In other words, the lockdown extension said schools would remain closed during that period.

That presents problem number one. Because, you see, just about two days later, that’s when cabinet resolved that schools would re-open from 30 August. The decision to re-open the schools betrays a messy U-turn on the part of government. It was this very government that said schools would remain closed for at least two more weeks. Then, the same government took only two days to do a re-think and reverse its earlier mindset.

Are you surprised? If so, you mustn’t be, because that’s how this so-called second republic does its business. Never sure about a single thing. Jumping from one post to another out of habit. This is the same government, remember, whose principals announced there would be no medical tourism anymore.

But who doesn’t know the person who will take the cup for medical tourism at the next Guinness Book of Records edition? The very government that has been playing crazy flip flop with local and foreign currencies. It’s called schizophrenia, political schizophrenia. A very dangerous sickness.

Who was going to care about sickness in Zanu PF and its government, anyway? Those guys are an awesomely crazy lot that’s always using its energy to try and convince the world that madness is not an abnormality.

There is a big problem, though, when crazy people are the ones who are making decisions on your behalf. Like, it’s obvious that cabinet, when it announced school reopening, never took the real stakeholders into account. Parents and guardians were given four or so days’ notice to prepare for back to school.

That’s brazenly unkind and inconsiderate, to be modest. It takes a lot for parents to adequately prepare for their children’s return to school. These little souls have spent a lot of time at home, eating lots of food and growing exponentially in the process. Uniforms no longer fit properly. But then, a parent cannot buy new shoes before there is a definite date for the reopening of schools because the kids’ feet may overgrow the new size before they go back to the classroom.

So, you guess what these clowns in cabinet would be saying! Ah, but the parents must have saved the money to buy new shoes so that, when we announce the new dates, kaput, the parents run to Enbee or other stockists.

This thinking, of course, is based on the weird assumption that ordinary parents in Zimbabwe can save money.  The reality, on the other hand, is that the majority of the parents are living from hand to mouth, and saving is hard to do.

These clowns conflate the suffering Zimbabwean masses with themselves. They think that, just because they can eat from shady deals and have millions of laundered dollars stashed in their backyards, everyone is in the same thieving mode and can, therefore, afford to pay for uniforms and tuition on a four-day notice.

In any case, the government told a clever lie about consulting with relevant stakeholders. It said it had consulted the Health ministry and the teachers, among others. We don’t exactly know about the ministry, but it could actually have recommended school reopening on the basis that the Covid-19 caseload had gone down well enough to permit the return to the classroom.

Still, there is a clumsiness in this. You see, this is the very ministry that had, two days earlier, recommended the extension of the lockdown. You can’t recommend extending the lockdown and then okay the reopening of schools under almost the same breath. The lockdown extended the ban on social and other forms of gatherings. But you know what happens at schools now. There are big, mostly uncontrolled—and perhaps uncontrollable—crowds there. In the classrooms, dorms, et cetera. So, how do you reconcile the extended lockdown and reopened schools without getting into a lousy contradiction?

That aside, the teachers might have been consulted, but they never agreed with the dates that cabinet dreamed up and foisted on us. In fact, they had proposed mid-September or when the teachers had been paid their next salaries so that they would be able to travel back to work.  

Now that things haven’t happened that away, there are big chances that the teachers won’t pitch up for classes, come tomorrow. After all, they have long-standing grievances that the government has not been able to address. The government would rather buy cars for shady politicians in this futile club called Polad than seriously consider teachers’ salary grievances!

Besides ordering schools to reopen, government has done literally nothing else to ensure that learning will resume with some sanity. It said it had decided to start vaccinating children between 14 and 17 as part of its general fight against Covid-19. But with the kids going back now, there is nothing—zilch—on how that will be done within the schools.

Obviously, government won’t be able to impose the vaccines on the lone students once they return. It need to consult—then get the consent—of the parents and guardians. You can’t roll out vaccines at schools as if you are dishing out fortified porridge.

Add to that the fact that a mere 5 percent of teachers has received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. This means almost all the teachers are going back to the classroom unvaccinated. Government claims that it has set out some millions of dollars to help fumigate the schools and what not, but that’s a long fib.

Hardly any fumigation is happening at the schools. But who is going to be so much excited about fumigation, considering that the schools have been abandoned for so long? Most of them have not been used as quarantine centres, so the worry must be with the returning students and teachers.

Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT) and can be contacted on tmajoni@idt.org.zw

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