Teachers boycott reopening of schools

MOST teachers across the country yesterday boycotted the reopening of public schools, protesting against the failure by government to test them for the lethal coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The schools reopened for Grade 7, Form 4 and Form 6 examination classes for the first time since March when President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed a national coronavirus lockdown to curb the spread of the killer virus.
A survey carried out in Harare by the Daily News and reports by teachers unions showed that most teachers did not turn up for work because of the failure by the government to test them for the disease.
They also protested against what they termed “poor remuneration”.
Most schools in Harare were observing social distancing, screening and sanitising learners on entering schools premises.
Parents and visitors were turned away by authorities who required clearance letters from the Primary and Secondary Education ministry as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
In rural areas, unions claimed there were low teacher attendances, lack of screening thermometers and sanitisers, and most pupils had no masks.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) secretary general Tapson Sibanda told the Daily News yesterday that the government had failed to prepare for the reopening of schools.
“Teachers were not tested for Covid-19 and the government has failed to deliver on a number of promises. A lot of things were supposed to be done before schools reopened, including the availing of sanitisers and personal protective equipment (PPE), but there is no evidence whatsoever to support that the government has managed to do all of these things. Sanitisers and PPE are only available in a few schools where non-governmental organisations have made donations,” Sibanda said.
“It is clear that the government has no capacity to provide all of these things and unfortunately the burden has been placed on suffering parents.
“Parents are the ones who are going to pay for the acquisition of PPEs and sanitisers when they can barely manage other expenses due to poor salaries.
“I have been going around schools in Tsholotsho where I am stationed and teachers have not turned up.
“Reports coming in from other parts of the country and also show that teachers have not gone to work. They heeded our declaration of incapacitation and there is no going back.
“When we declared incapacitation, at the top of our concerns was the issue of salaries. The government offered us a 40 percent increase and we rejected it because it did not make sense. What they have given us as a cushioning allowance is exactly what we rejected.
“So, the money is now in our accounts, but it is not enough for us to go back to work. We are not going back on our declaration of incapacitation,” Sibanda added.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president Obert Masaraure told the Daily News yesterday that the situation on the ground was dire and required immediate intervention.
“We have been going around the country to assess the situation and teachers have really sent their message across to the government showing that they are incapacitated. For example, in Matabeleland North only one percent returned to work, while in Mashonaland East only five percent of teachers showed up at work,” Masaraure said.
“The government has failed to deliver on its promises. Most schools, especially those in rural areas, don’t have sanitisers or thermometers for temperature tests.
“Some students were wearing rags as masks and others were being turned away for not having masks.
“The situation on the ground is dire and we call upon the government to intervene and address all these issues, including the remuneration of teachers who are currently incapacitated.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general Raymond Majongwe said there was zero preparedness to reopen the schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Teachers were not tested, adequate sanitisers and other PPE were not availed. The government just wants to open schools, but does not want to put in the work that is needed to ensure that students and teachers are safe from Covid-19,” Majongwe said.
“From what we have seen on the ground today (yesterday), schools only have buckets of some yellow substance that is not even enough to last a week. Students are not practising social distancing. It’s a disaster.
“Most teachers have not reported for work and this is not a protest against the government, but it is a way of showing the government that teachers are really incapacitated.”
But Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro told the Daily News yesterday that the government never committed to test teachers for Covid-19.
“We never promised to test teachers, but we said everyone is going to be screened and if they show Covid-19 symptoms, that’s where they would be tested.
“We are going into a meeting (last night) to assess the first day of schools re-opening,” Ndoro said curtly. By Sindiso Mhlophe and Blessing Mashaya

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