The rushed opening of schools on September 6 has exposed pupils and teachers to Covid-19 as many schools have since recorded positive cases since the re-opening of schools.
Last week TellZim News published a story that exposed how government rushed to open schools without putting in place all the materials needed to combat the spread of Covid-19 and the incapacitation of teachers to travel back to their workstations.
Recently, a number of schools from Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Matabeleland South provinces recorded positive cases of pupils and in some cases teachers.
In Midlands positive cases were recorded at Chegato with 60 out of the 115 pupils tested, Masase with 40, Msume 7 out of 12 tests done, in Mashonaland East Daramombe, Chemanza and Neshangwe recorded positive cases while in Matabeleland South Bulu and Tongwe recorded positive cases.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President Dr Takavasha Zhou said they have said it before that it was a danger to open schools without all the materials needed to curb the coronavirus.
“We said it before and would say it now that it is suicidal to open schools without concrete plans to combat Covid-19.
“We now cannot ignore designing an intervention plan for affected schools in particular and any other schools in general,” said Dr Zhou.
He said those schools that have recorded low positive cases, it is because they were lacking test kits because almost every boarding school has an infection.
“Those schools with low figures are simply reflective of the shortage of testing kits than low infection. Opening schools without testing teachers and pupils was a great mistake committed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education,” said Dr Zhou.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union in Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) President Obert Masaraure said the situation in schools is deteriorating every day since government has not put in place measures to combat and contain the disease.
“The situation in schools is deteriorating by each day passing, government has failed dismally. We expected that by now they would have disbursed funds towards capacitating our schools to operate under Covid-19 World Health Organization (WHO) regulations.
“There are no sanitizers, thermometers and social distancing is not maintained hence schools are becoming super spreaders of Covid-19 and very soon we will be forced to close since we are not capacitated. Some schools have since closed after they recorded positive cases,” said Masaraure.
He however urged government to work towards disbursing the funds they received to curb Covid-19.
“The government received US$463 million from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which is specifically for education meant to deal with the Covid-19 crisis and they should distribute that money.
“We urge government to quickly play their role before the situation gets out of control,” said Masaraure.
Masvingo Provincial Medical Director (PMD) Dr Amadeus Shamhu acknowledged receiving information that pupils had tested positive to Covid-19 at Gutu high school and said the infected learners will be placed on quarantine at the institution.
“We received the information that pupils tested positive at Gutu high school and like the case of Bondolfi Teachers college, the positive pupils will be isolated at the institution.
“We are still waiting for the report from the District and we urge all schools to abide
by Covid-19 regulations at all times,” said Dr Shamhu.
Gutu District Information Officer (DIO) Miriam Dube said four high schools namely Gutu, Alheit, Mutambwi and Mushayavanhu recorded Covid-19 cases of pupils and teachers as well.
“The schools which include Alheit, Gutu, Mushayavanhu and Mutambwi have recorded positive cases and some parents have withdrawn their children from Gutu high school. However the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education does not encourage parents to take their children,” said Dube.
She said that most cases emanated from form one classes and the schools are only testing pupils from form four to six as schools have limited test kits.
“Most recorded cases emanated from form one pupils. However, the schools are also testing pupils from form four to six but the test kits are not enough for all learners to be tested.
“The Ministry should acquire more test kits and distribute them in clinics near schools so that the pupils can easily access the clinics and get tested,” said Dube.
Gutu District Medical Officer (DMO) Dr Brian Takaidza said they are testing all pupils starting with the most affected schools and organizing vaccination programme for unvaccinated teachers.
“We are testing students starting with Gutu high school which recorded most cases and some dormitories were turned into isolation centers for positive pupils.
“We are organizing the vaccination programme for the teachers who have not yet been vaccinated as a precaution against Corona virus,” said Takaidza.
Plans to include pupils from 14 to 17 years on the vaccination programme are underway while government has ordered all civil servants to either be vaccinated or resign from service.
…Masvingo schools overwhelmed
Masvingo province this week recorded a spike in Covid-19 cases, with schools recording high numbers only two weeks after reopening, amidst calls to have pupils vaccinated as a matter of urgency.
On September 22, 2021, Masvingo recorded 89 positive cases, with 50 from schools in Bikita (50), Chiredzi (5), Chivi (1) and Gutu (7).
Bikita District Information Officer (DIO) James Makuvaro said the cases are from Mashoko Mission and Chirumba High schools where they are currently testing pupils.
“We received positive cases from schools here in Bikita and most cases were from Mashoko Mission and Chirumba High Schools,” said Makuvaro.
He said he is not yet in a position to state causes of the spread in those schools since he did not visit them yesterday.
“I am not in a position to establish causes of spike in those schools with positive cases because I did not visit schools with my team yesterday. I will update you as soon as I get the information,” Makuvaro said.
Bikita District Medical Officer (DMO) Dr Thalia Mungwari referred questions to Masvingo Provincial Medical Director (PMD) Dr Amadeus Shamhu.
“I cannot give you details about the positive cases in schools. You can contact the PMD,” said Mungwari.
As at September 22, Gutu district recorded one positive case at Gutu high with cumulative cases at 105, two positive cases at Perseverance College which had three cumulative cases and one positive case at Gutu Central Primary School (CPS).
Gutu DMO Dr Brian Takaidza said they are testing all learners in Gutu starting with those schools with pupils or staff members with symptoms.
“We are moving around in schools testing both teachers and pupils for Covid-19. However we are prioritizing schools with pupils or staff showing symptoms and 12 pupils completed their 10 day isolation period at Gutu High,” said Dr Takaidza.
Masvingo PMD Dr Amadeus Shamhu confirmed the rise in positive cases in the province and most of them are emanating from schools through contact tracing.
“We have seen an increase in Covid-19 cases in the province and most cases are emanating from schools through contact tracing,” said Dr Shamhu.
He said district health personnel are visiting affected schools and implementing measures to contain the virus.
“The districts are busy visiting affected schools and implementing all necessary measures needed to contain the virus,” said Dr Shamhu.
Dr Shamhu encouraged the people to abide by the Covid-19 regulations and those who have not been vaccinated to do so.