DEPUTY CHIEF WRITER
TEACHERS’ unions have rejected the government’s decision to reopen schools between June 29 and July 28, saying the country has not yet proved that it has put all the safety measures in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.
This comes at a time when Covid-19 cases have significantly increased compared to the time when schools closed in March this year. As of yesterday, the country had 314 confirmed cases, four deaths and 46 recoveries.
The country’s biggest union by membership — the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) — yesterday told the Daily News that there was clear evidence that the country was not ready to resume school lessons.
“Our position is that it is wrong in the first place to dictate the opening of schools, without clear evidence on the ground that the situation has improved. The situation on the ground is gloomy and there is no hope the situation will improve,” Zimta secretary-general Tapson Sibanda said.
He said the teachers’ unions had unanimously agreed to take the government to court over the issue.
Schools had been initially scheduled to open on June 29, before the government moved the dates to July 28.
Speaking to journalists during a post-Cabinet briefing, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa confirmed that the dates had been moved to July 28, while examination classes were the only ones set to resume on June 29.
“In line with …the president’s decision that schools should start reopening, Cabinet resolved that the reopening of schools be moved from the proposed June 29, 2020 to July 28, 2020 to allow the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to engage Treasury and other stakeholders or partners to mobilise for the provision of adequate resources.
“The decision to reopen schools on July 28, 2020 does not affect the June examinations which are to be held from June 29 to July 22, 2020 as initially proposed,” Mutsvangwa said.
Speaking to the Daily News, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe, said opening schools now was a recipe for disaster, following what happened in South Africa, where schools were forced to close after some pupils and teachers tested positive for Covid-19.
“Our greatest worry is that the government has not proved to us that they are serious. There is no budget and schools are on their own, while the government is on its own.
“Most schools in rural areas have no money. There are claims that schools are making masks and sanitisers using aloe.
“How many of the Cabinet ministers are using masks being produced by these children or sanitisers made from aloe? They are all using products from China.
“They want the teachers and students to be exposed to Covid-19. What are they rushing for?
“If you look at examples in South Africa, the unions in that country are regretting the opening of schools,” Majongwe said.
He said they were surprised by Cabinet’s decision to endorse the decision to open schools, saying the government should not sacrifice the poor.
“Many children and teachers have underlying conditions. Our teacher, pupil ratio should be 1:20 and we have not been told that the government has recruited more teachers. If we are to go by the proposed ratio, we would need 30 000 more teachers,” he said.
He said most of the people who were pushing for the reopening of schools, were those with private schools, who sought to make money adding; health and safety were more important than money.