853,032 learners (ECD to Grade 7, ages 3 to 12) targeted under the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) through Education in Emergency support across 33 districts with severe needs.
3.5 Million learners are currently affected under the COVID-19 pandemic. The cluster is targeting to reach these learners with various activities to address their needs.
105,252 people have benefitted from activities related to the HRP and 398,023 people have benefitted from COVID-19 related activities as of August 2020.
Cluster Partners are appealing for US $41 Million through the Humanitarian Response Plan 2020 and US $10.26 Million to meet the emergent needs outlined in the COVID-19 Addendum.
20 operational partners within the cluster have planned, ongoing or completed activities.
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, which struck Zimbabwe in March 2019, , the economic crisis coupled with hyperinflation and the ongoing drought. Before the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic, estimates by the Education Cluster were that at least 1.2 million out of more than 3.4 million (about 35 per cent) children of school going age (3 to 12 years), would need emergency and specialized education services in 2020. This includes more than 853,000 children in acute need, such as: children not enrolled in school; orphans and other vulnerable children (OCV), including children with disabilities and children living with HIV; and those in need of school feeding.
The combined effect of the humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic has far-reaching implications for the demand and supply of education services. While Zimbabwe closed schools on March 24, 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to protect school populations, school closures have disrupted the education of more than 4.6 million children, with adverse impacts on the protection and wellbeing of children as well as their readiness for school, attendance and participation in learning.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) successfully conducted June national examinations for Forms 4 and Form 6 from June 30, 2020 to July 23. However, the planned reopening of schools, which was originally scheduled for 28 July 2020, was postponed indefinitely. In August 2020, Cabinet announced re-opening of schools for examination classes (Grade 7, Form 4 and Form 6) as follows: September 14, 2020 for those sitting for the Cambridge examinations and September 28, 2020 for classes scheduled to sit for local Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) examinations. Local ZIMSEC examinations are expected to begin on December 1, 2020. While the MoPSE continues to consult widely on the reopening of schools, there has been no announcement for the rest of the nonexamination classes.
While schools are expected to reopen for examination classes, school children have missed a whole school term (about 92 days) of teaching and learning, with serious implications for their well-being and academic growth. The prolonged school closures are likely to have a major negative effect on children’s learning, physical, social and mental health and well-being; threatening hard-won educational achievements for years to come. Prolonged school closures will also likely exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and inequalities among children, especially girls, children with disabilities, those in rural areas, orphans and vulnerable children, as well as those from poor households and fragile families. School closures also have the potential to widen learning disparities and increase the risk of some learners permanently dropping out of school.
While the MoPSE is prioritizing the health and well-being of learners, teachers, staff and school communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted both the health and economic systems. To add to these challenges, schools, which traditionally rely on user fees to fund their daily operations, will likely be resource constrained. Most parents will most likely be unable to pay school fees because most rural and urban households are experiencing economic hardships induced by COVID-19-induced economic shocks. Ensuring that all the pre-conditions for the safe re-opening of schools, including infection prevention and control measures, the provision of hygiene facilities and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as adherence to physical spacing, and social distancing considerations in a context of increasing cases loads and a fragile economic context also represents significant risks. Without a wellresourced education and health systems, reopening schools remains a significant challenge. At the same time, protecting the right of every child to learn has never been more urgent.
The cluster is targeting 3.5 million learners at ECD to secondary school level through prioritization of activities.