Cambridge examination classes can start a fortnight earlier, on September 14, with Cambridge examination dates being earlier as they are set internationally by a British-based board.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after the Cabinet meeting that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education was working closely with other ministries and stakeholders to guarantee the safety of pupils and staff during the examinations period.
“Standard operating procedures have been distributed to all schools,” she said.
Schools were closed late in March ahead of the initial 21-day national lockdown, but reopened briefly for June examinations.
Fifteen stakeholders have already made their submissions, with nine others expected to make theirs shortly.
Before today’s announcement, Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) chairperson Professor Eddie Mwenje had hinted that schools were most likely to open in September, while public examinations would take place in December and January.
Zimbabwe’s two biggest teachers’ unions had suggested that Government should postpone exams to February 2021.
Stakeholders that have been consulted include teachers’ unions, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, the Association of School Development Committees, the Independent Colleges in Zimbabwe, the Private Schools Association of Zimbabwe, and the Association of Trust Schools.
“To us, the issue of safety comes first. Our concern is, does the Government have capacity to provide a hygienic environment that will not allow the spread of the pandemic?”
He added that, “it would be unfair to the learners if the Government goes ahead with plans to reopen and schedule exams for November this year.”
The second problem was remuneration of teachers, with Dr Ndlovu noting that illegal transport operators were charging in foreign currency, although Zupco — which runs services within cities — charges subsidised fares in local currency.
Past opening proposals had Zupco providing buses to get pupils and staff to schools.
He argued, that both the learners and the teachers were ill-prepared after losing considerable learning time due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Dr. Takavafira Zhou said also argued that schools were not ready to open for Zimsec exams.
Zhou further added that before the Government rushes to reopen schools they first must address the issue of teacher recruitment noting that the backlog of 50 000 teachers was grossly affecting service delivery.
She said the plan was to start with the resumption of domestic flights and then move to international flights.
Cabinet also approved the resumption of the rest of tourism operations, including boat operations.
Cabinet was briefed by the chairperson of the Covid-19 Inter-Ministerial Taskforce, Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, on the situation of the pandemic in the country.
Zimbabwe now has 6 559 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 203 deaths, although recoveries have reached 5 241.
“Cabinet acknowledged that despite the surge in positive local cases, the majority of the cases of local transmission are mild to moderate, with a recovery rate of about 80 percent.
“Most of these cases are managed at home and in isolation facilities. The national testing strategy however will continue to prioritise the testing of all health care workers and other frontline personnel, inclusive of public transport drivers,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said Treasury had released US$20 million for the procurement of testing kits that have been in short supply.