Zimbabwean teachers’ union demands government opens bars before schools

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HARARE – A teachers’ union says the government must assess the threat of the coronavirus spread in gatherings exceeding 50 people by first opening bars, churches and weddings – before schools can re-open.

The Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) says it is going to court to block the “premature” opening of schools, starting with Form 4 and Upper Sixth pupils who are sitting the ZIMSEC exams from June 29 until July 22.

The government has pushed back the re-opening of schools to July 28.

The union says the government is woefully prepared for any potential outbreak of the virus in schools, and is also demanding a massive recruitment of more teachers in order to decongest classrooms.

The union wants pupils and teachers to be supplied with free masks, and testing on site.

“It is against this frustrating background that we will be forced to block opening of schools and the writing of June examinations,” ARTUZ said in a statement Wednesday.

“We are seeking an interdict from the courts to block both the writing of June examinations and opening of schools on July 28. We are also mobilising for massive street protests by teachers and parents demanding salary review for teachers. We remain open to dialogue.”

ARTUZ said between May 2 and June 8, it had joined six other teachers’ unions in writing petitions to the government demanding minimum safety standards for learners and teachers, before schools can open. They have received support from a parliamentary committee on education.

The government says it is training headmasters to prepare for the schools re-opening.

A key demand by ARTUZ is for the hiring of more teachers 90,000 more teachers in order to decongest classes.

“On opening of schools, 136,000 teachers and almost five million learners will be admitted in our schools. The teacher complement will have to be boosted by 90,000 teachers to achieve social distancing in our classrooms and plug the gap of staff shortage,” ARTUZ demanded.

The union also accused the government of using teachers and school children as guinea pigs.

“They should open churches, bars and weddings first before schools to assess the contagious effect of gatherings of 50 plus people,” said ARTUZ. – ZimLive