GENERAL Education Minister Dennis Wanchinga says non-examination classes will reopen on September 21, 2020 to give parents enough time to prepare while examination classes will begin lessons next Monday.

And Dr Wanchinga, who is also acting Higher Education Minister, says universities and colleges will reopen on September 28, 2020.

Meanwhile, the minister has appealed to learning institutions to come up with workable payment plans for fees for parents with financial difficulties.

Dr Wanchinga was speaking at a media briefing to give guidance on school reopening following President Edgar Lungu’s order.

“As Minister of General Education and now also as Acting Minister of Higher Education, I wish to provide further guidance on the reopening of institutions of learning as follows: the reopening of schools, colleges and universities and other institutions under TEVET will have to abide by strict adherence to the health guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health. Our managers of these institutions must provide proper leadership in ensuring that such learning institutions are safe for our children,” Dr Wanchinga said.

“The dates for reopening these institutions shall be as follows: examination classes under General Education; all examination classes for primary and secondary schools and third year students in colleges of education will reopen on Monday, 14th September 2020 as scheduled. Non- examination classes under General Education, in order to give ample time for parents to prepare children in non- examination classes for primary and secondary schools as well as colleges of education, these will reopen on Monday, 21st September 2020. We are advising parents not to rush their children to schools, especially those in boarding schools.”

He said all institutions of learning should work with the Ministry of Health and ministries of education to ensure strict adherence to health guidelines.

“I also take note that since the announcement for the reopening of universities and colleges was only made yesterday, there may be need for parents and students and learning institutions themselves to be given ample time to prepare. Accordingly, the reopening of universities and TEVET Institutions will take place on the Monday 28th September, 2020. I would like to urge all authorities in our institutions of learning to work with health officials, parents, and the community at large to ensure that there is strict adherence to the guidelines provided by both the Ministry of Health and the ministries in charge of education,” Dr Wachinga said.

He urged learning institutions to engage parents and learners facing financial challenges on payments plans for the school fees.

“I would also like to encourage our parents to adequately prepare their children by providing them with face masks. Parents are also encouraged to pay school fees in full in order to facilitate effective teaching and learning. However, in cases where parents may be experiencing financial challenges, I wish to urge our learning institutions to engage parents and learners to make payment plans and accept payments in instalments. In certain instances, especially in our rural schools where cash payments may be a challenge, payments in kind should be considered so that no learners are sent away from schools,” Dr Wanchinga said.
“In order to sustain the availability of face masks, school authorities, in collaboration with the parents, should work together and ensure that face masks are provided to the learners all the time. I also wish to direct our learning institutions to effectively and efficiently make adequate arrangements to cover the material that was lost during the closure without compromising quality. Further guidance on the school calendar will be provided in due course.”

And General Education Permanent Secretary Dr Jobbicks Kalumba said the Ministry was considering splitting classes and allocating them different days to attend class in an effort to reduce overcrowding in schools.

“We have five days in a week, so in situations where there is a challenge of space because of overcrowding, children would be reporting every alternate day, what do I mean? Some may report on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday first group; then the other group will report on Thursday and Friday in the first week. Now in the other week, we will change; those who reported on Monday, they will come and report now on Thursday and Friday to complete the week,” said Dr Kalumba.
“The timetable will be covered, the syllabus will be covered, the contract period will also be the same. That is in a situation where there could be a challenge in terms of space. The other option, we are going to split the class; one class can come during this time and the other comes at a different time. By the end of the week, all children will be exposed to the normal timetable. So in this way, no child is going to lose on anything and the quality of education won’t be compromised. But there are other schools in the country, especially in the rural areas, where there are only 30 pupils in the class, this can’t apply. So it won’t be everywhere, it will depend on the situation on the ground.”