Zimbabwean schools, which were set to reopen on January 10, will remain closed indefinitely because of Covid-19. Picture: 123RF/SAMORN TARAPAN
Zimbabwean schools, which were set to reopen on January 10, will remain closed indefinitely because of Covid-19. Picture: 123RF/SAMORN TARAPAN

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has indefinitely deferred the reopening of schools, citing high numbers of Covid-19 cases fuelled by the Omicron variant. Schools were set to reopen on January 10.

In his New Year address, Mnangagwa said the opening of schools would be “delayed until further notice” and only examination classes would be allowed to reopen on January 10.

“Our nation is in the grip of an Omicron variant fourth wave, whose curve we continue to struggle to flatten.

“With the exception of examination classes, which resume classes as announced by the responsible ministry, the general school calendar is hereby delayed until further notice.

“Examination classes exempt from this delay are, however, expected to strictly comply with preventive public health measures,” said Mnangagwa.

According to a report by Unicef, the indefinite closure of schools has affected 4.6-million children in Zimbabwe.

Statistics released from Zimstat, the country’s official statistics agency, show that 60% of the school-going population dropped out of school in Bulawayo and 56% in Harare.

Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) president Dr Shingai Nyaguse told TimesLIVE that school closures have devastating consequences for children’s learning and wellbeing.

“Omicron clearly causes less severe illness. There is also no evidence that schools are drivers of transmission. More likely they are just a reflection of what is happening in the community,” said Nyaguse.

“School closures have already caused numerous negative outcomes for children — socially, developmentally and in terms of their education. It’s unfortunate that they continue to bear the brunt of these Covid mitigation measures. We would urge authorities to examine the evidence and revisit this decision.”

TimesLIVE

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