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Open bars before schools, rural teachers tell government

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By Mbekezeli Ncube

THE Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) has voiced concern over government’s decision to open schools while maintaining a ban on bars which are patronised by adults.

Government announced Tuesday that schools will be reopened 28 July while June examinations were earlier announced by Zimbabwe School Examination Council (ZIMSEC) to kickstart from the 30th of June.

The closure of schools and colleges in March this year followed the outbreak of coronavirus in the country March this year with concerns the highly infectious disease could spread easily among learners.

This was followed by an unprecedented lockdown of the country which saw business close as the country took steps to try and limit the spread of the disease.

Government has since instituted a phased reopening of country while maintaining the closure of bars.

However, in a statement, ARTUZ felt there was everything wrong with a government that seeks to use young and immature citizens as guinea pigs in terms of the spread of coronavirus when bars that are manned by adults remain shut.

The vocal teachers’ union said the move will be a huge challenge to their schools because it will be difficult to observe Covid-19 regulations.

“We note with disgust the attempt by government to open schools during the obtaining national lockdown,” said ARTUZ.

“It should be noted that 66 000 candidates are sitting for 2020 June examinations, 9 900 teachers will be needed to invigilate the examinations.

“On opening schools, 136 000 teachers and almost five million learners will be admitted in our schools.

“The teacher compliment will have to be boosted by 90 000 teachers to achieve social distancing in our classrooms and plug the gap of staff shortage.”

ARTUZ has vowed to take the matter to court in order to block the “ill-informed premature opening” of schools unless its recommendations to both the ZIMSEC and the parliament were attended to and dealt with accordingly.

The rural teachers union wants government to “open churches, bars and weddings first before schools to assess the contagious effect of gathering of 50 plus people and ensure that the coronavirus epidemic is totally under control before taking the steps of opening schools”.

“Ensure the verifiable fumigation of all schools before they open as well as at regular intervals thereafter. Schools that are currently used as quarantine zones should go through rigorous fumigation and confirmed safe by competent personnel in the Ministry of Health and Childcare,” said the union.

“ZIMSEC should postpone June examinations until it’s verifiably safe to do so and take cognisance of the effects of the cold season we are entering as it quickens infection rates of this type of epidemic.”

ARTUZ also said the government must provide a workable plan for teachers with pre-existing medical conditions in order to reduce or eliminate their possible exposure to Covid-19.