Harare-All universities will be reopening from 1 June under the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, but only the final year students will be allowed to be on campus with the rest relying on online education, an official has revealed.
Speaking to The Herald, Professor Ammon Murwira, Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology, said they have decided to allow only final year students to resume their face-to-face educational pursuits to maintain social distancing on campus in order to lower the risk of spreading coronavirus.
“We have agreed on a general date of June 1. This is when every university should start blended learning. In the first phase, only final year classes are expected to be receiving face-to-face learning, while others use online learning. We did this to allow social distancing on campus.
“We have also agreed with institutions that examinations are going to be written between July and mid-August then the semester ends, ” Prof Murwira said.
Professor Murwira said they have ordered the universities to break large classes into two groups to maintain social distancing guidelines.
“We are not going to compromise on the safety of our students. Education is for the living, we gave a specific order to universities to ensure they put systems in place that will see a safe environment for students,” Prof Murwira said.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (ZICOSU) President Pijiwest Nhamburo welcomed the decision by the Government and said strict measures should be implemented to make sure students are safe from the coronavirus.
“We will be working with our relevant sister ministries to ensure that the process happens in a seamless manner. If there will be waivers needed, we will respond to the need in a coordinated manner with the Ministry of Health and Child Care as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs,” he said
The Zimbabwe National Students Union said all lectures should be tested for Covid-19 before they engage in any activity on the campus.
Zinasu Secretary-General Tapiwanashe Chiriga said: “Students must only be on campuses if the Government can assure the nation that institutions will adhere to WHO guidelines on prevention of the spread of Covid-19 and institutions that have been used as quarantine and isolation centres must be thoroughly disinfected.”
He added: “There must be adequate rapid test kits. Government and institutions must provide face-masks and sanitisers for staff and students. Traveling to institutions must be guided and led by the state to minimize the risk of infection on the way.”
Questions have arisen on how will online learning accommodate those without access to the internet.
“Institutions must be willing to make sure all students have data bundles before any online learning is taken seriously. The past weeks have been a disaster as many students were excluded from WhatsApp lectures as they did not have data bundles,” he said.
Developed countries, like the United State of America, have moved their studies to online until it is safe for them to resume their face-to-face learning processes.