Teachers call for Covid-19 safety measures ahead of schools opening

Teachers’ unions have implored the government to put in place safety measures to combat the spread of covid-19 as schools prepare to open for the first term.

On Monday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa eased the country’s covid-19 lockdown measures and announced the imminent opening of schools.

Schools have not yet opened for the first term this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to CITE, Tuesday, Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ) Secretary General, Godfrey Kanyongo said teachers are ready for the opening of schools provided the government has put in place measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

“It’s now long overdue, learners need to go to school. Teachers are ready to open provided the government has put in place measures to combat the spread of Covid-19. If the requirements are met there is no need of waiting to open schools,” said Kanyongo.

“Also, parents are ready to send their kids to school while teachers continue with talks with the government regarding their remuneration”.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) programs Officer, Ladistous Zunde also said there is a need for the government to address the teachers’ salaries and conditions of service.

“To prepare here means putting the WHO Covid-19 abatement minimums in place for every institution to function. Yes, schools must prepare to open but not without addressing the teachers’ concerns first. The government must address the teachers’ salaries and conditions of service demands and Covid abatement requirements before anything,” said Zunde.

In addition, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) President, Obert Masaraure said the government is shying away from consulting the unions and other education stakeholders ahead of the opening of schools.

“This is a perfect recipe for the recurrence of the disaster which unfolded during the abortive attempt to open school on 28 September 2020,” said Masaraure.

“Government should engage in genuine collective bargaining with teachers to resolve the salary crisis. We still demand restoration of the October 2018 salaries, a minimum of US$520 per month for teachers”.

He added that the Government should address safety concerns through a voluntary vaccination for all teachers.

“Mandatory testing for all participants in the physical school ecosystem and adherence to Covid-19 set standard operating procedures should also be addressed,” said ARTUZ President.

Chief Executive Officer for Zimbabwe National Teachers Union (ZINATU) Manuel Nyawo said the President’s decision to not announce the dates is a welcome move as he is aware of the challenges faced by the schools.

“We are happy that the President is very much concerned about the state of most of our schools countrywide. He is also very much aware of the challenges schools are facing in meeting WHO protocol. His decision not to announce when schools will open is a very welcome development,” said Nyawo.

“As ZINATU we are against a hurried, unplanned and reckless push for the reopening of schools before paying attention to a number of issues that must be put into consideration, chief among them being salaries for the teachers.

He added, “We wish to implore the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education to consult with teachers’ unions and parents on what needs to be done. Issues to do with PPE, sanitisers, testing kits, running water, social distancing among others. Considering the number of infections, we already have and the relaxation of lockdown conditions, we are worried about the situation of our teacher members and learners and a lot needs to be done before rushing to expose these innocent groups to Covid-19.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)

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