Half-term and all other breaks in schools have been banned this term as part of measures to minimise Covid-19 infection risks and to ensure that pupils do not lose more learning time.
In the past, many non-Government schools put in a long-weekend half-term break after gaining the required support from parents, but these have generally been banned.
Schools reopened for the long second and final term this year on August 30 after a prolonged break necessitated by the third and worst wave of Covid-19 infections.
Since then, several schools have been hit by outbreaks, although the numbers remain negligible considering the population of 4,6 million children in schools.
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the majority of cases in schools were mild and asymptomatic without the need for hospitalisation and were being managed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
“Cabinet directed that half-term breaks be prohibited in order to help learners catch up on time already lost during the lockdown and this will also strengthen Covid-19 containment measures,” she said.
She said the surge of Covid-19 cases in schools had contributed to the slight increase in the number of cases recorded during the past week to 1 687 from 1 669 the previous week.
While there was a surge in infection soon after schools re-opened these have now generally levelled off after measures in schools were tightened and enforced.
The most significant number of new cases were reported in Masvingo (450), Mashonaland East (261), Matabeleland North (216), Manicaland (193), Midlands (190) and Mashonaland Central (145).
“It is apparent that Mashonaland East, Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces are experiencing a resurgence of Covid-19 spurred by the cases in boarding schools,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Cases have been reported in Mberengwa at Masase, Chegato and Mnene High Schools while in Masvingo province, Gutu and Alheit boarding schools as well as Mutandwi and Mushayavanhu day schools also recorded cases.
In Matabeleland South, cases have been reported at Tongwe High School while Manicaland and Mashonaland East have also reported cases.
This has put pressure on schools and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to contain the surge in cases as well as ensure continuity of learning time, particularly for exam classes, who start writing on December 1.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the Ministries of Health and Child Care and Primary and Secondary Education were still implementing the standard guidelines for the coordinated prevention and management of Covid-19 at learning institutions, while strengthening measures to ensure continuous teaching and learning during isolation or quarantine.
At the beginning of this term, all learning institutions set up temporary holding rooms and sick bays in anticipation of any positive cases and these have come in handy as all learners who have tested positive are being treated there.
Although there have been concerns from some parents on the learning time being lost by pupils in isolation, the Government has assured everyone that those children are still accessing normal face to face lessons ensuring that they keep up with their classmates.