The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, ARTUZ applauds the government of Zimbabwe for a successful vaccination program which saw the country reaching the World Health Organisation, WHO target of vaccinating more than 10% of its population by September 2021. ARTUZ however noted with disgust the promulgation of Statutory Instrument 234 of 2021, which seeks to coerce civil servants to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.
ARTUZ has been on the fore front encouraging teachers to get vaccinated as a way of containing the deadly COVID19 pandemic, however the Union is completely against mandatory vaccination. Mandatory vaccination violates employee’s freedom of choice and right to dignity. The policy further disregards the existence of underlying medical conditions which bar some employees from being vaccinated.
The Union further notes that some members are failing to access the vaccine for various reasons which include inaccessibility of clinics in rural areas and inadequate supply of the first and the second jab, it will be grossly unfair to punish these public servants for failing to achieve the impossible. The teachers who are seized with preparing learners for public examinations under extremely difficult conditions should not be expected to shelve their work and embark on a vaccine hunt.
The Union notes that the nation is in a wave of brain drain as most skilled and experienced teachers are leaving for greener pastures. There is an acute teacher shortage in schools at a time when teachers are supposed to be championing education recovery. The few underpaid teachers in our schools are demoralized and overwhelmed with work. The mandatory vaccination program might push some of the remaining few teachers out of the work place negatively impacting on access to quality education.
The mandatory Vaccination policy has done more harm than good through fuelling vaccine hesitancy. Teachers are now more skeptical of the vaccines in view of the coercive measures. The hesitancy can only be cured by educating the nation on the goodness of vaccination not coercion.
It is disturbing to note that there is no credible way of foolproofing against fake vaccination certificates. Some teachers who are hesitant to get the jab are now getting fake certificates thus undermining efforts to get to herd immunity. This can also be stopped by mass education on vaccination safety and efficacy not threats.
It is against this background that Union pleads with your office to consider the following:
- Scrap the 15th of October mandatory vaccination deadline for Civil servants.
- Embark on a mass education campaign on vaccination to mitigate against vaccination hesitancy, the Union is also contributing towards the same.
- Abandon the commandist approach towards vaccination. Respect teachers’ right to choose, hold opinions, right to dignity and ensure that workplace is safe for all. Allow for exceptions for those who can’t be vaccinated for one reason or another.
- Ensure that the vaccines are readily available and conveniently accessible.
- Convene a dialogue with Unions to plan on ways of increasing vaccine uptake.
- The Union looks forward to an improved handling of the vaccination program. We can realize herd immunity without resorting to coercion. The Second Republic made a pledge to be a listening government this is a time to put that into action.