Zimbabwe: Outcry As Govt 'Forces' Schools to Reopen

THE government has been accused of "ambushing" parents, teachers and learners by ordering schools to reopen from next Monday.

Schools have been closed for the past three months as the country grappled with the rise in new Covid-19 infections and deaths due to the outbreak of the third wave.

However, cases of new infections and deaths have in recent days declined and Wednesday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists Cabinet had resolved schools to reopen Monday for examination classes and on 6 September for non-examinations classes.

The government also allowed restaurants to reopen only for customers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 while intercity travelled, also banned for the past three months, has resumed.

However, according to Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), the directive to reopen schools in less than week was an "ambush" as parents did not have enough time to raise money for school fees while teachers were incapacitated due to low salaries.

"The truth is while school was supposed to start any time it was better for the government to engage. There are serious issues of teachers who don't have bus fare (incapacitated) others are waiting to be vaccinated. It seems the government enjoys starting fights with its workers. We love our jobs," the PTUZ said.

In a separate interview with NewZimbabwe.com, PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said: "It is mission impossible, ill -conceived, unfortunate, intransigent and irresponsible commandist approach impermeable to educational taxonomy, professionalism, reason and facts. The welfare, health and safety of teachers cannot be alienated from opening of schools.

"There is no Covid-19 abatement equipment in schools as the ZWL$500 million given has not yet filtered to schools. less than 7% of teachers have received vaccination as opposed to 65% deemed safe for control of infection transmission."

"Parents, teachers and learners have all been ambushed. Who has a stash of money just lying around to be used for fees or bus fare back to work? The government may be ready, but no-one else is. The so-called salary was used up around payday. Anyone listening?"

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said although teachers "missed" learners, they wanted the government to restore teachers' monthly salaries to US$540.

"We learnt through social media that schools will open on 30 August. We hope the government will restore our pre-October 2018 salaries so that we resolve incapacitation crisis. We are ready to teach. We miss our learners they miss us too. But US$540 first!"

The militant teachers' representative group said both teachers and parents are incapacitated to teach and pay tuition fees for their children.

"Schools heavily rely on parents for education funding. Outside paying teacher salaries government hardly raises a finger to fund education. Parents are coming from a hard lockdown and incomes have been wiped through retrenchments and collapse of informal economy. It is foolhardy to expect parents to raise funds for fees and other learning materials in the next four days," it said.

ARTUZ also demanded a salary adjustment for teachers before returning to work.

"In 2020, Minister of Public Service Paul Mavima pronounced that by January 2021 the government would have produced a roadmap towards restoration of pre-October 2018 salaries for teachers," it said.

"To date no roadmap has been shared. The government has only resorted to adjusting salaries in line with inflation. Teachers, therefore, remain severely incapacitated. Teachers cannot afford to pay tuition fees for their own children let alone travel back to work."

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