Covid-19: Teachers call for mandatory testing of all learners

Teachers’ unions have called for the mandatory Covid-19 testing of all learners before they return to school instead of limiting intakes at boarding schools.

This comes at a time when the government has ordered boarding schools across the country to cut down on their intake, this year, to allow social distancing among learners.

In an interview with CITE, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) President, Obert Masaraure said the government’s decision is random and not backed by clear long-term planning.

“Government’s call, like all the other calls, is just a random call which is not backed by any clear long-term planning. What is the fate of the learners who will fail to secure form 1 places?

“Zimbabwe already has a shortage of schools. The Covid-19 risk for children is very low. We would recommend mandatory testing of learners as they come to school and creation of bubbles within schools,” said Masaraure.

Progressive Teachers Union Zimbabwe (PTUZ) programs Officer, Ladistous Zunde said this will lead to congestion in day schools.

“Typical of our clueless government officials superintending over the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Their we know it all attitude is sinking this ministry into a pit that they are never going to be able to come out of it. Remember population growth is not static in this hemisphere unlike in the northern one. Yes, they may succeed to cut the numbers in boarding schools and then what? Where does the excess go given the severe shortage of infrastructure in our country.

“So, it means in a bid to cull boarding places to social distance learners, day schools become unbearably overpopulated and the results are obvious. Overcrowding leading to accelerated and high incidences of Covid-19infliction and affliction especially in the absence of any deliberate efforts to expand the infrastructure,” said Zunde.

He said the government is not consulting other stakeholders such as the parents and teachers’ unions in formulating strategies to combat the pandemic.

Zunde added that there is an urgent need to massively address the infrastructure problems before solutions by the Ministry are popularised.

“The net effect of such plans by the government is the squeezing and displacement of more and more children out of schools condemning the majority into mushrooming private schools and colleges owned by the same officials at the Apex of the sector,” he said.

However, Zimbabwe National Teachers Union (ZINATU) chief executive officer Manuel Nyawo said even though it is a welcome decision given the continuous rise of Covid-19 cases, they are concerned about the school fees hikes.

“The decision is quite a welcome one, given the unprecedented and continuous rise in Covid-19 cases. There is in-fact no better option than this given the need for social distancing in dormitories, dining Hall and auditorium.

“Our situation is very worrisome considering our high student population in schools where managing these learners can be difficult. However, we are not happy with the effect that it has on school fees and levies, which have been hiked astronomically and most of these are beyond reach of many, with teachers and other lowly paid civil servants being the worst affected,” he said.

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)

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