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'It's dangerous to open schools now'

by Staff reporter
02 Sep 2020 at 06:38hrs | Views
TEACHERS yesterday told Parliament that they would only resume their duties during the COVID-19 period after government has met their demands for better working conditions and guaranteed their safety.

The teachers raised the red flag over the reopening of the schools yesterday during a virtual meeting organised by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education chaired by Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga to gather oral evidence on the country's readiness for schools reopening.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said they took cognisance of the fact that Zimbabwe should move on during the coronavirus threat, but schools were bedevilled by several safety and resource challenges that made it unsafe to open them as per government directive.

Zimta chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu cited problems such as demotivated staff that earn between US$30 and US$35 per month. He said the teachers could not afford bus fares to rural schools as they were charged in foreign currency.

"In terms of safety and health issues, schools are broke and cannot supplement the murky awards from government to manufacture face masks and to purchase sanitisers as there were no fees collections for the second term and parents were affected by the lockdown, where some employees were not paid," Ndlovu said.

"The promised resources from Treasury to support schools in rural areas have not even reached the coffers of those schools and if there is evidence that this contagion is not spreading in communities then we can open in-person learning," he said.

Ndlovu said the water infrastructure at schools was dilapidated, adding that only 200 millilitres of sanitiser were provided by government for schools, which he said was inadequate.

He said teachers' salaries have been devalued by 830% due to inflation, adding that there were double standards on the part of the Public Service Commission which said it could not negotiate in-person salary increases with unions, and yet on the other hand, government was demanding in-person learning to resume.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga asked the unions to explain if there was no disconnect between their proposals and what their membership wanted because they threatened that they would not invigilate June examinations yet their membership went on to invigilate.

PTUZ representative Ladistous Zunde said most of the people that invigilated the June examinations were not teachers but members of the community as reported by the media.
Ndlovu added: "You are saying the teachers defied the unions, but instead of saying they defied, you should be grateful that teachers sacrificed themselves because teachers milk themselves to death.

"That is why a teacher will use their money to buy a learner a pencil. If issues of remuneration of teachers are not solved, we will end up having corruption at schools where teachers charge learners US$ for extra lessons. Teachers are prepared to go back to schools as long as their salary, health conditions and logistical issues are resolved."

Both unions cited transport problems as well as government's failure to announce a budget for re-opening of schools as major impediments.

Source - newsday