Crisis in schools: Govt must act!

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THE government must swallow its pride and admit that there is a huge crisis in schools as teachers continue with their industrial action.

While this week Early Childhood Development (ECD) A to Grade 5 pupils joined the Grade 6 and 7 classes in primary schools with Form 1 and 2 joining their seniors who had opened in September and last month, the reality on the ground is that there is no learning taking place as teachers have refused to report for duty.

We urge parents and guardians to take precautionary measures when sending their children to schools as there is a real risk of contracting Covid-19 in the absence of teachers and protective material. While we agree with the government that pupils have a right to access education and that there are consequences if they do not, it should not be at the expense of their health.

Even threats by the government warning teachers that it would withdraw their salaries if they do not report for duty have not worked as the educators have declared incapacitation and some have not turned up for work since the introduction of the first phase of schools reopening in September.

Teachers’ unions have declared that their members’ demands have not changed and nothing short of a genuine attempt to address the situation would motivate them to return to work.

We, therefore, urge the government to break the impasse.

The absence of teachers has forced most parents to withdraw their children from schools, while those learners who remained behind spent the whole day playing without following Covid-19 prevention measures, among them maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.

While the government has said it had procured personal protective equipment for schools, most of them, especially in rural areas, did not receive such, hence risk exposure to the virus is high.

This comes as the Council of Student Teachers (COST) has said student teachers have borne the brunt of incapacitation longer than most and worse even, earning an allowance of $150 (US1,50) per month. In addition, COST said the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Teacher Education stipulates that student teachers should not address learners without the supervision of a mentor — a qualified teacher.

In the meantime, we take heart from the Primary and Secondary Education ministry that provincial and district heads are on the ground assessing the situation at schools. We await the results which the ministry is collecting for mapping the way forward; this has to be a frank and transparent assessment.

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