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Coltart slams Govt for delaying opening of schools

By Mutsa Makuvaza

FORMER Education Minister David Coltart has labelled as a “catastrophe” the decision by President Mnangagwa to delay the opening of schools amid a rise in the cases of Covid-19.

In his New Year address, President Mnangagwa said that the schools were supposed to reopen on January 10, 2022, but only examination classes will be allowed to reopen while the rest of the classes will re-open at a later date to be advised.

Making the announcement this Friday, the President said Government made the measures as guided by a scientific appreciation of the Covid-19 situation prevailing across the country.

“In the last three days, we have been experiencing at least 30 deaths a day due to Covid-19 and thousands of infections. Therefore, with the exception of Examination Classes which resume classes as announced by the Ministry, the general school calendar is hereby delayed until further notice.”

But Coltart, who is also a Treasurer for the opposition MDC Alliance, wants schools re-opened as per the normal school calendar. He is adamant that the decision by Government was not backed by science.

“The decision by the Zanu PF regime to delay the opening of schools is a mistake, indeed catastrophic. Our education system is in dire straits and we face the prospect of an entire generation of children failing to acquire educational building blocks. Schools must reopen,” the Senator said Sunday morning.

Another former Cabinet Minister, Jonathan Moyo, also agreed with Coltart, saying Mnangagwa’s decision was backed by politics and not science.

“(The postponement is) catastrophic, indeed. They’re unscientific and thus uninformed; it’s done for crude politics; and the result is that they’re killing education!” said Moyo, who is in exile since November 2017.

Critics accuse the ruling party of glaring double standards after it held its internal polls countrywide on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, where over 100 000 members participated.

However, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, a top public health expert and head at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo, believes it was right that Government took the precaution to wait-and-see how cases of new infections rise or declaine in early January before re-opening schools.

“I think delaying reopening of schools by a month or two in the midst of such a terrible pandemic, where resources are low could be justifiable,” said Professor Ngwenya.

“The act of getting the timing wrong would be catastrophically irreversible. Let’s be cautious and monitor the situation.”

Zimbabwe kicked off the new year with 955 new coronavirus cases and 13 deaths but the pandemic seems to be getting under control in the main cities Harare and Bulawayo which now have some of the lowest cases in the country.

The country recorded 1 841 recoveries yesterday resulting in the number of active cases dropping to 26 786.

Harare is down to 1 194 cases following the recovery of 360 people and Bulawayo to 1 182 after 826 people recovered.

Cases in Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East, however, increased with Mashonaland West now at 6 457 and Mashonaland West 5 309.

Over 10 000 people were vaccinated with 5 830 getting the first dose, 5 170 the second and 428 the third. So far 4.13 million people have received one dose, 3.14 million are fully vaccinated and 5 623 have received the third booster shot.

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