This report is premised upon observations by teacher unions under FOZEU, as well as individual teachers and administrators in various schools across the country. It is thus a collation of various reports. The general assessment from government and mission schools across the country is that in terms of adherence to Standard Operational Procedures against Covid-19, April 2021 is ending the way it started, i.e., with government paying lip service to these issues in schools as well as deliberately misleading partners and stakeholders.
In approximately 75% of schools, both urban and rural, there is no consistent supply of water despite MOPSE’s claims that it has enough bowsers to supply schools that have no water. In fact, even in urban areas, supplies of water are so erratic that the most enterprising schools have had to buy from bulk water suppliers. We could not find instances of schools supplied water by MOPSE through bowsers, though it is a remote possibility that they did so. At most schools therefore, learners have to make do with own water from home, while at school, there may be one or two sources of water for washing hands after using the toilet or getting into contact with various surfaces. This could be the calm before the storm. Our recommendation is that government should stop depending on MOPSE reports which are almost always spiced up to give a positive image. Winter is here, and given the lackadaisical approach by MOPSE, if the disease hits schools in big numbers, we are likely to have a big crisis.
In all public schools we have visited, the teacher-pupil ratio is too high and actually poses a danger to learners, teachers and the community from which they hail. While boarding schools have generally reduced numbers, in day schools the teacher-pupil ratio remains shocking. Some schools have tried to ameliorate the problem via dividing classes into two and giving them days to attend lessons, in smaller groups. However, the most brazen authorities have maintained a situation where the whole schools comes every day and the classes are packed. If there is an outbreak at such schools, there will be multiple casualties. There is need for Ministry officials to take the issue of social distancing seriously. In many cases learners have masks but adherence to mask regulations is not enforced or is enforced with frightening laxity.
Most unions, and FOZEU, have maintained the incapacitation modus operandi in which they report for duty twice a week. Even those that attend, in some cases, just go there and sit-in. At boarding schools and some urban schools, they have entered into an arrangement where teachers are paid incentives. Under these circumstances, they are attending lessons religiously. The fact remains however that where incapacitation is affecting learning, both teachers and learners are reporting at school erratically.
Safe schools no more?
Some unions have received reports of teachers being physically attacked by community members for various reasons. Over the past two weeks alone at least five incidences have been reported throughout the country. This has the net effect of increasing the insecurity of teachers. While law enforcement authorities will be involved, the feeling of insecurity by one teacher or teachers in one community has a domino effect. We call on political and community leaders to live in harmony with teachers because any negative developments that happen against teachers in each community will definitely and decisively affect the learning of your children. FOZEU and individual unions are always at hand and ready to assist affected teachers. We will also initiate human rights awareness campaigns and training for teachers to try and prevent the recurrence of such activities. We call on government to follow the policy of safe schools to the letter to ensure that both teachers and learners are safe.
Vaccine uptake among teachers is very low, largely because teachers mistrust the vaccine. Government has not done much to try and allay these fears. We applaud those that have taken the vaccine, but still reiterate that it remains an individual decision on whether to take the vaccine or not. It remains the government’s responsibility to carry out the necessary campaigns to ensure more teachers are vaccinated.
- Adherence to SOPs remains very low.
- Vaccine uptake remains low among teachers. There is need for government to do more to reach those that need the vaccine.
- Little learning is going on in public schools that are not paying incentives.
- Government should pay teachers a living wage and let education return to the classroom.
- Violence and threats against teachers are rearing their ugly head. We call on government to protect teachers.
- We call on government to share accurate figures and information on Covid-19 incidences in schools.
- The Federation will work with all stakeholders in the education sector to ensure that our schools are safe from Covid-19.