Cabinet on Tuesday announced a phased reopening of schools after a lengthy COVID19-induced break, with examination classes supposed to report for lessons on March 15, while the rest of the classes will open a week later.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure told NewsDay that as long as government failed to meet teachers’ grievances, there would be massive failure by teachers to return to work due to incapacitation.
Teachers are demanding a basic salary of US$520 or its equivalent in local currency, but government insists that it has no capacity to pay in foreign currency or the equivalent in local currency.
“It is very unfortunate and tragic that the government of Zimbabwe is opening up schools without capacitating the teachers who ordinarily teach there. The teachers will neither be able to show up for duty nor pay the school fees for their own children. Government is acting like the proverbial fool who repeats the same mistake and expects different results. The crisis of September 28 will haunt us,” Masaraure said.
He said government should ensure voluntary vaccination of teachers and mandatory testing of all participants in the physical school ecosystem to ensure adherence to COVID-19 standard operating procedures.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said currently, teachers’ salaries ranged from $14 000 to $19 000, a situation which rendered them incapacitated.
Zhou accused government of reneging on its November 2020 promise to pay them US$520 or its equivalent by July 2021.
“The message from President Mnangagwa was clear and loud that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education must prepare to open schools in line with WHO [World Health Organisation] regulations. Indeed, the timelines would have been sound if government was preoccupied with the urgent resolution of the welfare of teachers and prioritisation of health and safety of teachers and pupils,” he said.
“As teachers who are nearer the schools and classrooms, we want to tell Mnangagwa that teachers will not be able to report for work on March 15, 2021 as they are grossly incapacitated. There is no need for the State to be inconsiderate by giving teachers an impossible mission of opening schools
on March 15.”
Zhou accused the civil servants’ negotiating body, Apex Council, of failing to represent government workers.
He said the National Joint Negotiating Forum and Apex Council could not serve the interests of civil servants and teachers as they did not have the interests of civil servants at heart.
But Apex Council president Cecilia Alexander dismissed the claims, saying teachers were the most represented in the Apex Council.
“The few individuals who criticise the Apex Council are those betraying the workers’ struggle. They are not giving any service,” Alexander said.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said schools would open as planned.
“The ministry has come up with catchup strategies that will see all continuing classes starting with 2020 work. Syllabi have been compressed to enable accelerated coverage. Both primary and secondary levels have three levels of accelerated compressed syllabus each. This will result in work being covered in much shorter time,” he said.