Rather than risk another “spike” in infections, Zimbabwean Teachers Unions have called on the government to engage stakeholders for progressive consultations that may guarantee a more “cautious” and” strategic “phased” return as schools are set to reopen this month.
By Taurai Mabhachi Kufa
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday announced the lifting of Level 4 national lockdown paving way for the reopening of schools starting from 15-22 March 2021.
However, this is likely to throw the education fraternity in turmoil as teachers unions argue they have not been adequately consulted and are not aware of how the government intends to manage the Covid-19 situation when schools re-open.
Addressing a post-cabinet meeting the Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said: “Schools will reopen this month in two steps, starting with the three examination classes on Monday 15, and the rest of the classes a week later on Monday 22”.
“The re-opening is now possible following the fall in infection rates and the successful preparations done in all schools to ensure a safe environment” she added
Responding to Mutsvangwa’s announcement, the president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) Obert Masaraure indicated that the government did not engage the stakeholders thus; both the teachers and parents on the strategy they intend to implement when they open schools.
“As the president of ARTUZ I want to clearly state that the government is going ahead with opening schools without addressing the fundamental issues –like the incapacitation crisis of teachers. The teachers’ welfare that need to be addressed quickly and also the syllabus compression plan may not adequately work if not properly handled -particularly in respect of motivating the teacher” Masaraure said
He further noted that “the government cannot over –emphasize on the issue of vaccination without mobilizing adequate resources to ensure all teachers are vaccinated”
“Parents are an important cog in the learning equation and ought to be adequately consulted on the way forward ,particularly taking cognizance that they are emerging from a total lockdown” he said
President of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Takavafira Zhou also highlighted that the government was not being sincere by letting the teachers go back to schools with a paltry salary ZW$14000.
“Teachers are not ready to go back to class because they are earning a paltry salary of ZW$14000. Remember these teachers are also parents with families to take care of. How many months will a teacher raise a school fees for his/her child if an average of a decent school costs ZW$ 35.000.00 which is a way beyond their capacity”
“Schools are overburdened and may not afford even basic safety measures such as sanitizers. On the other hand, how are parents going to manage paying for their children fees when they are just coming from a hard lockdown?” he added