VISUS initiative to address school safety assessments in Zimbabwe

More than 70 participants joined the launch session of the Visual Inspection for defining the Safety Upgrading Strategies (VISUS) Initiative which helps to assess the safety of schools in Zimbabwe, with an initial focus on schools in Chimanimani district. This initiative is being implemented in the context of the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) funded by the World Bank and managed by UNOPS.

The launch session which was held on 4 October 2021, drew participants from the government, academia, civil society organisations and local schools. Some physically attended the launch at the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) premises while others joined virtually. 

In giving their remarks both Mr Nathan Nkomo, Director of the Department of Civil Protection (DCP) and Dr Koen Verbist, Programme Specialist of UNESCO ROSA, spoke of the situation at St. Charles Lwanga High School, where 200 children, teachers and support staff were stranded for two days during Cyclone Idai in early 2019. 

Dr Koen Verbist indicated that a lesson learnt is the clear need for a methodology that identifies individual vulnerabilities in terms of site, structural performance, non-structural issues and functionality, for every single school while developing a regional and national database at the same time. 

In her remarks Ms. Tonderai Fadzai Naome Mukonoweshuro, ZIRP co-Task Team Leader and Senior Operations Officer with the World Bank, said that the World Bank was committed to supporting the welfare of the affected children. 

Mr Nkomo stressed the need to have the programme rolled out in other districts highlighting that more than 10 schools in Matabeleland had been affected by storms in the past rainy season. He further indicated the need to collaborate with Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA) who have assisted in mapping out geohazards in Chimanimani to ensure that investment is not put to worst and the lives of children are protected.  

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Housing and Social amenities Engineer J.P Makumbe, indicated the importance of the assessments in ensuring the safety of schools. She further said her Ministry was introducing new building technologies that were sustainable and cost effective. 

The event received a positive response as participants who joined the launch session expressed interest in being included in the programme, while the response from stakeholders indicated a strong appetite to have the programme rolled out in other districts in Zimbabwe.