Trust Freddy and Nqobile Tshili
Some parents and guardians spent the better party of yesterday in urban centres and growth points making last ditch preparations for their children who open schools tomorrow for the first term of 2024.
Small and large-scale school uniform makers and suppliers were busy at work, with some opening shops as early 7am in Harare.
Other enterprising people sold school stationery on the streets at discounted prices.
While schools officially open tomorrow, boarding schools had started receiving Form One learners over the weekend while other grades are expected to travel today.
Government says all systems are in place to ensure a smooth re-opening of schools, dismissing claims that were circulating on social media that the start of the 2024 schools’ first term had been deferred to a later date due to the cholera outbreak.
Mrs Pamire buys books for her children during First Pack discount festival grand prizes draw and family fun day in Harare on Saturday.— Picture:Nicholas Bakili.
Form One leaners usually travel earlier for the first term for orientation purposes as schools seek to better equip them for adaption in the new stage of their education.
In an interview yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Torerai Moyo said all was set for a smooth start to the first term.
“Everything is going well so far,” he said.
“We are not going to defer schools opening dates because we have put all the necessary measures in place to curb the spread of cholera.
“We have taken measures to stop the spread of cholera, including making sure that there is running water at all strategic positions, requiring students to wash their hands with soap.”
Yesterday, 264 new suspected cholera cases, three suspected deaths and 47 laboratory confirmed results were reported. The cases were reported from Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe 79, Chitungwiza City 39, Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital 27, Kuwadzana 22, Makonde 15, Mazowe 13, Glenview 9, Chipinge 8, Marondera 6, Centenary 6, Buhera 5, Mutare City 5, Mudzi 4, Rushinga 4, Gutu 3, Hurungwe 3, Beitbridge 2, Mutare 2, Mwenezi 2, Rutsanana 2, Budiriro 2, Chiredzi 2, Mbire 2, Chimanimani 1, Bindura 1 and Mutoko 1. So far, 57 districts have reported cholera cases. As of yesterday, 265 are cases hospitalised.
Minister Moyo said confirmed that some Form One learners had gone to their boarding schools for orientation, while some left yesterday for their schools.
“For example, students from St Johns actually left on Friday and orientation is a crucial step that I think every student should go through as it signifies an important phase in life, changing from primary to secondary education.
“But, definitely on Tuesday, all the schools will be opened,” said Minister Moyo.
He reiterated that for fees payment, all schools should accept all currencies as stipulated by law.
In Matabeleland region, boarding schools such as Thekwane High School received Form One learners on Saturday while those from Cyrene High School and Sacred Heart High School and other schools went yesterday.
Nemane High School received Form Ones on Friday.
Last week was busy as parents and guardians thronged major shops in towns to buy critical learning materials as well as paying school fees at banks.
Minister Moyo said teachers were ready and would be going to their stations.
“As far as we are concerned, we don’t expect any challenges because the school calendar hasn’t changed.
“Learning starts on Tuesday and we don’t expect any disturbances whatsoever. In my opinion and from the situation obtaining on the ground, we are 100 percent ready for schools opening,” he said.
Minister Moyo said as schools reopen, the Government does not expect children to be turned away for any reason as this would be a violation of their rights.
There have been instances where learning institutions turn away learners because of non-payment of fees but the Government has insisted that schools should deal with parents and guardians as opposed to taking it on pupils.
Minister Moyo said the ministry’s teams will be conducting assessments within schools to ensure that any challenges are addressed.
“We are also going to be part of the teams that will be moving around in all the provinces assessing. If there are any problems, we will be able to deal with them,” he said.
Minister Moyo said the Government will decisively deal with bullying within the schools as learning institutions should be safe spaces for children.
“Bullying is a phenomenon synonymous with misbehaviour and misdemeanor and our schools are able to handle those cases. We are saying bullying is not tolerated,” said the minister.
“Form one pupils have opened earlier so that they can go through some induction where they will be taught how they can deal with challenges, which include bullying among other things.
“There is no room for bullying and if that happens, perpetrators must be reported to school authorities and disciplinary action must be taken,” said Minister Moyo.
He also said schools should be on the outlook and ensure that learners are not abusing drugs and other prohibited substances.
Minister Moyo said the violence that has been recorded in some schools is a product of drugs and substance abuse and the nation should join forces in ensuring that it is not disruptive to the education sector.
“Sometimes it [bullying] is a manifestation of drugs and substance abuse, although not widespread. We are aware some of our learners, especially senior learners- form three, form fours – are involved in bullying.
“In Bulawayo, we have had students involved in street fights and that is a manifestation of children that are subjected to drugs and substance abuse,” said Minister Moyo.
“We are dealing with that, even our President, Dr E.D Mnangagwa, is saying that drugs and substance abuse must be eradicated and everyone must be a team player in dealing with that malpractice.”