Teachers’ unions have welcomed the government’s decision to defer by two weeks the re-opening of schools citing a number of issues that have to be attended to ensure compliance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Covid-19 protocols.
In a post cabinet briefing Tuesday, Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said in light of the surge in Covid-19 cases in the country, the re-opening of schools and other learning institutions would be postponed by 14 days.
Schools which also delayed reopening for the first as a result of the pandemic, were set to reopen next Monday for the second term.
Mutsvangwa said the government would be monitoring the situation adding, a review would be made after two weeks.
Zimbabwe National Teachers’ Union (ZINATU) chief executive officer, Manuel Nyawo said they welcomed the government’s decision although they were concerned with the 14-day review period which he said was rather too short.
“As Zimbabwe national Teachers’ Union (ZINATU), we wish to applaud the decision made by Cabinet to delay the reopening of Schools,” said Nyawo.
“However, we are worried with the short and unreasonably justified fourteen-day period of review which to us is too short a period for schools reopening considering a number of obvious factors at play.”
He said a lot needs to be done to ensure the safety of learners especially at boarding schools.
“Government should not hurry to expose children; a lot needs to be done. Most of the boarding schools are exposing students to the virus while nothing and no reasonable action is being taken to make sure that students do not take cold bath which is the order of the day in most if not all boarding Schools,” said Nyawo
“We have lost some students who caught pneumonia as a result of a cold bath. First things first; it’s not all about PPEs alone. Boarding schools must be scaled up to meet the expectations of WHO standards.”
He said the Ministry of Health and Child Care together with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education should visit boarding schools to assess the conditions learners live under.
Nyawo who added that most teachers have not been vaccinated against the virus said fourteen days was not enough for that exercise to be conducted before schools could reopen.
“In addition, students are not adhering to Covid-19 restrictions like the wearing of face masks. They find it difficult to spend the whole day putting on these masks and they end up not wearing these masks at all. There is no one to monitor them as teachers are very disgruntled over salaries. So, to suggest that schools should open in two weeks’ time before addressing their welfare issues would be seriously exposing the already vulnerable students at schools,” he said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure said reopening schools was going to put the lives of students at risk.
“Opening schools at the moment was going to be highly suicidal because our government has failed to capacitate our schools to adhere to standard operating procedures; we cannot afford to do the basics; we cannot afford to give PPE to both teachers and the learners; we cannot afford to test the teachers and the learners; we cannot afford social distancing,” said Masaraure.