Zimbabwe teacher union resists push to reopen schools under indefinite lockdown

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has insisted that no schools should open during country’s Covid-19 indefinite lockdown without the government committing to ring fence safety of learners and teachers.

This outcry follows a directive by government that schools will be open for examination classes during the indefinite lockdown period that was declared by President Emerson Mnangagwa on 16 May.

Posting on their Twitter timelines the unions  said the government made declarations to open up schools for examination classes without declaring their side of intervention to the safety of learners and teachers.

“A simple declaration that schools have to open for exam classes without providing the necessary support is inadequate”,

“Who is going to provide PPEs for teachers and learners?”

“How are schools going to secure disinfectants and sanitisers among others? Parents cant bear the burden” said ARTUZ.

They added that teachers also have a salary issue against the government before schools open which has not been addressed.

“Teachers salaries have also been heavily eroded”,

“We demand a living wage before we even contemplate safe opening of schools” they added.

Commenting on the same issue of the reopening of schools Ray Majongwe a teacher trade unionist said the government seem to be ignoring engagement with teachers on the way forward on reopening of schools.

He said that the government was supposed  engage teachers to hear their concerns and agree on a plan of action before making decisions like reopening schools.

“Teachers are saying there are serious health  concerns government  must address before schools reopen”,

“Seems government is not ready to engage its workers in the thorny issues they are raising”,

“Commandeering pupils back to class will not work” said Majongwe.

Majongwe said the government’s rushed decision is regrettable saying that stakeholders like unions,  epidemiology scientists and the employer were supposed meet first.

“Government has subcontracted the dilemma of reopening of schools to no one and everybody”,

“When President Mnangagwa said exam classes and final year University  students must continue what was that supposed mean?Still puzzled. People are asking me” he said.

Carlington Gumbo a parent from Mberengwa West expressed his dismay over the squabbling by unions and government over schools reopening.

“I am disappointed that the debate about when some school kids can return has descended into a squabble between government and the teaching unions,”

“The government and teaching unions must stop squabbling and agree a plan to get children back to school in a safe way”he said

Gumbo also called for “rigorous” coronavirus testing of teachers, children and families to ease safety fears among parents.

“In as much as we want our kids back in classes, we are particularly concerned about their safety”,

“During normal times teacher capacity to control children is compromised how will it be under these circumstances of a pandemic ” said Gumbo.

The President in his lockdown indefinite extension speech did not address how the government will intervene in the equipping of schools with personal protection equipment PPEs and sanitizers.

The government however, has not set a tentative date for reopening of schools.

Source – Taruberekera Masara



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