On 30th January 2020, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
With COVID-19 cases increasing worldwide including in countries bordering Zimbabwe and especially South Africa, Zimbabwe confirmed itsfirst confirmed case on 20. March 2020. Since then, there has been an increase in cases.
Latest figures on cases can be found here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports
The Government of Zimbabwe announced on 17. March 2020 the early closure of schools on 24 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the uncertainty around the development of the COVID-19 transmision, the planned reopening of schools, which were initially scheduled open on 05 May 2020, remains uncertain.
The education system in Zimbabwe was already stretched before the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of multiple crises, including the impact of Cyclone Idai in 2019, the economic crisis, climate-induced drought as well as food shortages. The COVID-19 epidemic has interrupted the teaching and learning for students. The epidemic poses great risksto the nutritional status of children from poor households, violence among children from fragile families and as well as mental well-being among both children and teachers. Without a conducive and disease free school environment, COVID-19 poses a risk to children’s health and wellbeing. Further, there is increased risk of permanent drop out among children with pre-existing vulnerabilities, especially children with disabilities. Given that the education sector was already beset with persistent disparities in educational opportunities between children of different gender, socio-economic status, disability status, orphan hood status, and demographic groups.
Without a well resourced response, these disparities are likely to widen.
The overall goal of Zimbabwe Education Sector preparedness and response strategy is to (1) minimize morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 among school communities, teachers and learners in Zimbabwe, (2) minimize/mitigate the disruption to the childrens’ education and learning and (3) ensure safe return to quality learning for teachers, learners and school communities. Activities in this strategy must be urgently and effectively implemented, starting with the highest risk areas to ensure adequate protection of school communities.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) and the Education Cluster look forward to working closely with stake-holders from across Government, donors, private sector, civil society, academia, professional associations, private-not-for profit sector, community-based organizations, religious leaders, traditional leaders, international organizations in the next few weeks and months