Contact classes suspended in Zimbabwe

After initially allowing universities and colleges to continue with face-to-face lectures amid a spike in COVID-19 cases, the government backtracked on 2 July, saying that contact lessons should be suspended with immediate effect.

The National University of Science and Technology, the University of Zimbabwe and the Harare Institute of Technology have all issued statements postponing exams indefinitely.

This comes amid reports by local news media that a lecturer at Kwekwe Polytechnic succumbed to COVID-19, the second at the institution to die of the virus within a month.

In the meantime, some of the stricter measures introduced by the government in mid-June to manage the pandemic have continued to disrupt the higher education sector, including a curfew from 6pm to 6am and a ban on travel between cities.


The higher education sector has experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Midlands State University closed its Zvishavane and Gweru campuses after at least 54 students tested positive for the virus (some reports suggest that the actual figure is as high as 100).

And on 28 June, the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) ordered students to vacate its Mashava campus the following day due to the continued rise in COVID-19 cases. This upset some students, who were under the impression that the institution would close only on 2 July.

According to a statement by the Zimbabwe National Students Union, four students were arrested at GZU while submitting a petition asking the university to allow them a few more days in residence. The arrested students have since been released.

At the Harare Institute of Technology, six students have reportedly been infected, and there are fears of an outbreak, as they have been in contact with others.

Prior to the stricter lockdown measures in mid-June, the Council of Student Teachers and the College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe had asked the Zimbabwe Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development to suspend face-to-face lectures.

They pointed out in a letter that the situation at universities and colleges was already worrisome, and pointed to two earlier outbreaks of infections at Bondolfi and Morgenster teachers’ colleges in Masvingo in the south-east of the country, which prompted the government to close and place them in quarantine.

It was only on 2 July that the government, through a statement issued by the office of the higher and tertiary education, innovation, science and technology development department, suspended classes.