Teachers Unions under the Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union (FOZEU) call upon the government to urgently engage them in order to collectively map an acceptable road map for the successful opening of schools in 2021.
It is an undeniable and unquestionable fact that education suffered a serious and deadly blow due to the Covid19 induced lockdown and subsequent closure of schools rendering learning impossible. Prior to this the education sector was already under serious distress due to a number of factors, such as lack of social dialogue, incapacitation of teachers and underfunding. It is therefore imperative to collectively plan for opening of schools as a matter of urgency.
Several corrective measures need to be rectified before schools can be safe zones for learning. The government should address the incapacitation teachers have been facing which has eroded their livelihoods, security and dignity. The salaries that the teaching profession has been subjected to for the past two decades are pitiful and cannot improve the lives of teachers and general upkeep of their families.
FOZEU is unflinching in its demand for the restoration of teachers' salaries to 520USD or the equivalent interbank rate. There also urgent need for government to address the salary discrepancies between civil servants and other gvt employees, where teachers have been relegated to the periphery of the salary cycle. A case in point is how junior soldiers are now earning 27 000 RTGS whereas teachers earn as little as 14 000 RTGS per month, which is an absurd and shocking scenario. Teachers are civil servants not civil slaves.
The physical opening of schools will require co operation between all stakeholders within the education ecosystem, viz, government, teachers, learners and parents. This co operation is necessary in order to create a conducive and safe environment for learning and teaching to take place. Schools should develop a Covid 19 response plan and compliant to government set standard Operation Procedure that should be informed by WHO safety regulation with regards to Covid19. The government should with urgency initiate a broad- based plan to monitor the progress being made in schools in providing safe learning environment. Classes and hostels must be decongested and all buildings fumigated.
With regards to vaccination, the government should prioritize teachers amongst essential services and vaccinate them before opening of schools. Teachers should be vaccinated on a willing basis and every teacher should keep a Covid19 score-card to ensure the smooth flow of learning and curbing the spread of the Corona virus. All school staff and students should be tested first before they are admitted into the school environment.
The education sector is one of the key pillars of our society and every society globally and its' welfare should be a top priority of a responsible governing authority. Covid19 has disturbed every element of society with education suffering the most, a sentiment echoed worldwide. UNESCO has described education as the sector that has suffered the most due to the global Covid19 induced lockdowns and the sooner it is resurrected the better but under safe and conducive environment.
Teacher incapacitation should be addressed, testing of all school staff and students should be prioritized and vaccination of all willing teachers. The government of Zimbabwe should desist from making unilateral and uninformed decisions as has become their norm. It is necessary to consider input from all stakeholders.
We therefore demand the:
- Vaccination of all willing teachers
- Periodic testing of all teachers, learners and ancillary staff
- Provision of Covid19 abatement equipment by gvt to schools and ensuring compliance with government set Standard Operating Procedures in our Schools
- Restoration of USD 520 or equivalent
- Rectification of salary discrepancies between civil servants and other gvt workers.
Source: Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union (FOZEU)