While the Government continues working out how to reopen schools in phases, starting with public examination classes, as Zimsec finalises plans for the late June examinations, some teachers unions are concerned.
Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education Mrs Thumisang Thabela on Wednesday told Parliament that the mid-year Zimsec examinations would be written between June 29 and July 22. But teachers’ unions believe that safety measures might not be ready in time.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said holding the examinations might not bring the intended outcome under the current circumstances.
“Scheduling examinations is not a panacea to Covid-19. This is a pandemic that has claimed many lives in the world and continues to do so. A declaration means nothing if the necessary health protocols recommended by the World Health Organisation are not followed,” Dr Ndlovu said.
“We are not ready for June examinations. Teachers are not willing. If the authorities go ahead with their plan, we are headed for industrial conflict. We cannot have pronouncements that ignore environmental dictates,” Dr Ndlovu said.
He urged Government to look at what other examination systems have done and compare their response.
“Government should consider what Cambridge, an international examinations body has done. They cancelled their June examinations and this is something we should consider. Our learners are not in the right psychological space to write examinations. They are fearing for their lives, so are our teachers. Writing an examination at this point may end up defeating the purpose behind examinations, unless we are doing them just to tick boxes,” Dr Ndlovu said.
Teachers are also suggesting that Government pays them a risk allowance.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president, Mr Obert Masaraure, said the June examinations should be written when conditions are right.
“There is no rush really. We do not want to lose lives, we should not force premature reopening of schools. Learners, teachers and everyone involved in the processes should be tested before there is any activity at schools — be they exams or lessons,” said Mr Masaraure.
He said the idea that this June examination was the last sitting that would be allowed under the old curriculum was immaterial in picking a date.
“The papers that need to be written will just be written when it is safe. Nothing changes, the same paper these learners are supposed to write this June is what they will write when it is safe to do so,” he said.
In his report back to his constituency, Mr Manuel Nyawo of Zimbabwe National Teachers Union (Zinatu) said June was not the best month to reopen.
“People will need to travel from various parts of the country to the examination centres and given the conditions prevailing, most of those who registered for June exams will find it difficult to meet the examination timelines due to serious mobility challenges,” said Mr Nyawo.
There were also concerns that the months of June and July in which schools are expected to reopen carry a high probability for infections of ordinary flu.
Parents seem to be divided on the matter.
Mr Samson Makumbirike of Kuwadzana said it was better if we forfeited the whole academic year.
“Our children are not the most careful, we will have a crisis if they reopen. Children love playing and get in contact all the time. Sending them to school is sending them in harm’s way,” he said.
But another Harare resident, Mrs Charlotte Mverechena, backed moves by President Mnangagwa to start reopening schools.
“Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. We need to accept that. There is no guarantee that next year Covid-19 will not be there. Let us ensure children go to school safely. If adults are going to work, then children can learn and write exams too. This is the new normal,” she said.
Teachers’ unions were told by Government to consolidate their opinions on reopening and submit a position paper. This will be fed into the calculations for setting opening dates.