The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe is deeply concerned by how the 2021 first term calendar went with regards to access to education, learning and teacher attendance to workstations whilst they are incapacitated financially due to poor remuneration.
The Union has carried out extensive evaluation on a number of crises that affected the education sector during the first term, firstly Covid-19 had already negatively affected the education sector since the start of the lockdown in March of 2020 which forced the physical closure of schools and all public spaces with people confined to their homes unable to go about or attend their day to day activities. In this regard education was greatly affected as millions of children who are from poor backgrounds failed to access learning due to school closures and they were unable to meet the financial obligations associated with online learning that requires data to access to which to the majority of Zimbabweans being unable to afford data.
When schools opened for the first term in March 2021 with relaxed lockdown conditions, the situation degenerated into further chaos as the safety Standard Operating Procedures were not abode to and this saw the school environment as the epicentre of rising infections in April an indication of the failure by the government of Zimbabwe to provide the necessary equipment to fight the pandemic and the capacity to properly ensure the safety of teachers, learners and school staff from Covid19. The government should prioritize the safety of educators and learners by providing PPE’S to schools such as masks and sanitizers and focus on mandatory testing of all learners, educators and school staff and prioritize vaccination of teachers to ensure the disease does not spread like veld fire. These logical conditions if implemented will prove to be necessary in the fight against Covid-19.
Teacher Incapacitation is also a major issue that has derailed the progress of not only the first term but the education sector for a number of years and the situation has been further escalated by the Covid-19 pandemic were other avenues of generating income to supplement meagre salaries has been cut off. Educators earn less than 150us (17 000RTGS) in local Zimbabwean currency and the official Zimstats statistics paint teachers as living in poverty as they have analysed that for a family not to be deemed poor in Zimbabwe monthly expenditure is 28 000RTGS, not only these statistics reflect a miserable situation but also the reality on the ground of how teachers are underpaid and undervalued yet expected to attend to their duties.
In the same vein the incapacitation teachers are experiencing has forced them not to be able to attend to their workstations on a daily basis as they have no financial capacity to religiously abide by their timetable, teachers are emotionally and psychologically drained by the chronic poverty that has affected them and have no form of motivation. Teachers have in the first term been sacrificing to attend lessons at least once or twice a week due to their own will to deliver on their positions to guarantee a better education sector but in reality this is not a feasible situation if schools are to be commanded to open for the second term without addressing the glaring crisis.
ARTUZ has undertaken a number of campaigns and spearheading the initiative to drive the government to fix the rot in the education sector, these campaigns which include the #SaveOurEducationZW campaign and the #545 campaign (5 million voices for 5 million learners) and these campaigns have been a success in bringing to light the crisis. The Union has also begun spearheading a referendum nationwide that seeks to raise citizen voice in calling the government to halt command schools opening without rectifying the crisis.
Zimbabweans from all walks of life have embraced the referendum and are clear that they want a sound and functional education sector by rejecting plans by the government to open schools without fixing the problems. ARTUZ believes that from the events that took place this term it is evident that the government is ill equipped to behave and act as business as usual when education is under siege in Zimbabwe, the Union is calling upon the government to first address teacher incapacitation by paying teachers a living wage of the pre 2018 October salaries of a minimum of 520us and also focus on upgrading the standards of education in Zimbabwe.