By Edward Makuzva
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe(PTUZ) President, Dr Takavafira Zhou says that government should ensure that schools should not open in a haphazard manner.
In a statement, the Union leader said the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infornation, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana, recently indicated that opening of schools, colleges and universities would be individualised rather than collectivised.
“It is clear that he is operating on unfamiliar terrain and is guilty of selective forgetfulness, more so taking cognisance of the fact that students follow the same curriculum and must be given equal opportunities to cover the syllabus and be assessed ultimately from a common diet.
“Equally puzzling is the claim from the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Cain Mathema that plans for sitting of June and November 2020 Zimsec examinations are at an advanced stage, at a time when government has no contigency plans to procure, produce and distribute materials needed to foster the health and safety of teachers and pupils in schools.
“The Minister must certainly familiarise himself more with educational taxonomy, let alone all the pre-requisite of successfully running examinations at a time when the opening of schools cannot be ascertained, coverage of syllabus by students is in serious doubt and government has virtually not engaged those who can ensure that examinations can be run smoothly and want to be paid for invigilating public examinations as it is not part of their job description”,Dr Zhou explained.
The Union President added that schools are ill-prepared to open at this juncture as nothing concrete has been done to carry covid-19 risky assessment in schools in line with WHO recommendations.
Dr Zhou said that, teacher unions have made submissions, on what must be done by government, when and how, but government has not even responded to teacher unions, let alone fully engaged them at national level.
“Instead of declining, pandemic cases are actually increasing with several schools and institutions of Higher and Tertiary Education being used for quarantine purposes. Worse still government is evading its responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of pupils and teachers by shifting the provision of sanitizers, thermometers, masks and other PPEs to schools.
“We cant leave the issue of health and safety of teachers and pupils to individual schools and parents. That would be suicidal, genocidal and an attempt to treat the disease by killing the patient.
“While we agree that examination candidates must be given first priority when schools gradually open, that must only be done when preliminary conditionalities that we outlined to the ministry are met.
“As of now there is very little if any that can warrant the opening of schools and it would be advisable to defer the opening to third term”, said the union President.
He said the government has also done nothing to address risks to both teachers and pupils, let alone address their dispute of right in terms of restoring their salary’s purchasing power parity to US$520.
Dr Zhou highlighted that, the government is best advised to engage teacher unions and resolve their grievances so that there is no impasse over salaries and conditions of service at a time government expects schools to open.
The PTUZ President added that the health and safety of pupils and teachers must be made a high priority, as well as payment of a salary of US$520 or its inter-bank equivalent
“Teachers will not accept the continued treatment in a degrading, callous and servitude manner.
“Opening of schools will pose serious risks to teachers as the frontline workforce teaching pupils from variegated backgrounds, including some from South Africa, and they must be given a risk allowance”, he said.
Meanwhile, teachers will have no option except to embark on industrial action such as stay away if their health, safety, and dispute of right over US$520 or its inter-bank rate equivalence cannot be guaranteed.
Teachers therefore expect government to address these as a matter of urgency in order to ensure the smoothy opening of schools at an opportune time.