College lecturers petition government over surge in Covid cases

By Alois Vinga

College lecturers and student teachers have jointly petitioned the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education to stop continuous face-to-face classes which they say are highly risky in the face of a surge of Covid-19 cases around the country.

An email communication from the ministry which was directed to all college principals reminded them that lectures will proceed despite the increase in Covid-19 cases.

“May you please note that, after the pronouncement of measures to curb the spread of the third wave of Covid-19 by the government on the 12th of June 2021. It is however advised that lectures are not suspended and therefore teaching and learning should continue in our institutions.

“In this regard, may you continue to adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures and World Health Organisation guidelines,” the directive said.

call to reverse directive

But in a petition to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Fanuel Tagwira, the College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe (COLAZ) in concert with the Council of Student Teachers (COST),  appealed for urgent reconsideration of this directive.

“In light of the recent announcement of an intensified lockdown, the lecturers Students Organisations wishes to appeal to your office to suspend face-to-face learning in our colleges of higher learning in light of the threat of a third COVID-19 wave,” they said.

The two organisations said they were writing in response to the circular from the ministry to highlight the dangers of continuing with face to face classes.

“Already, we have witnessed serious outbreaks of COVID-19 infections at Bondolfi  and Morgenster Teacher’s Colleges leading to the closure of the two institutions under quarantine. Most of our institutions conduct mass lecturers with little regard to social distancing,” the petition said.

The students and lecturers said many colleges did not have adequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment and sanitisers.

colleges super spreader locations

The colleges, they said, were by their nature of being highly populated locations super-spreader areas, which could defeat the aim of the national lockdown measures as many students commuted to school from private homes.

The institutions faced the danger of losing lecturers in the vulnerable age groups, who happen to be the most experienced, and they underscored the point that college health facilities were not adequately equipped to handle Covid-19 outbreaks.

“In light of the above, we hereby request that all colleges be temporarily allowed to conduct online tuition only, until such time lockdown measures are relaxed,” the petition added.

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