SENIOR STAFF WRITER
AS THE government prepares to open schools partially — on the back of falling coronavirus infections in the country — teachers say authorities are ill-prepared for the safe relaunch of learning, the Daily News reports.
This comes as Cabinet has directed the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to start preparing for this year’s public schools examinations.
The chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), Sifiso Ndlovu, said the government had failed to mobilise resources and to improve infrastructure at schools to enable a safe return to classes.
“Our resource mobilisation since March has clearly been erratic and it is not possible to fully open schools without exposing us to Covid-19.
“There is apprehension out there because the government is merely concerned about fulfilling the academic year, but the truth is that it was lost.
“The employer must drop this fallacy that learners can sit examinations because they were learning online. That is nonsensical because nobody was prepared for it,” Ndlovu told the Daily News.
He also said that there was inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for teachers and not enough furniture at schools to enforce social distancing for learners.
The country has about 290 000 teachers, ancillary staff and four million pupils.
On its part, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said the government had not consulted stakeholders before deciding to re-open schools for Grade 7, “0” and “A” level examinations set to run from October to December.
PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said providing PPE to teachers and ancillary staff was not a stroll in the park.
“The classes will have to be fumigated before anyone is allowed in, coupled with the fact that as teachers we are also worried about our welfare in terms of transport back to work — given that everything is being charged in US dollars.
“Government must do wide consultations before they make unpopular decisions. They are meeting virtually as a Cabinet, yet they want us to be physically teaching. Why do they want to expose us?” he said.
However, the director of communications and advocacy in the ministry, Taungana Ndoro, told the Daily News that an assessment of the situation showed that schools were “progressing well” towards the forthcoming examinations.
This comes as the government has previously said it needed a whopping $21 billion to ensure the safe re-opening of schools, in the wake of the havoc that had been caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Appearing before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Primary and Secondary Education in May, the permanent secretary in the ministry — Thumisang Thabela — said the money would ensure a safe return to schools by learners.
“We … need a grand total of $21 452 000 000 plus, but we are aware that it is a dream that we can only wish comes true.
“The minister will soon be presenting our strategic plan to Cabinet and only after that will we be able to come up with definite (re-opening) dates, but we are envisaging five phases of opening.
“The second phase will cater for all the learners who will be writing their public examinations in 2021, that is those doing Grade Six, Form Three, Lower Sixth this year and these will need us to prepare for three weeks after the first phase,” Thabela told the committee.