By Bulawayo Correspondent
PROGRESSIVE Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has challenged government to establish an inclusive Covid-19 schools’ assessment taskforce before the re- opening of schools for 2021.
The teachers’ representative group says it has it on good authority that government will be announcing new schools opening dates at the end of this month.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said teachers are ready for schools opening but are worried about the lack of preparedness on the part of the government.
“A taskforce comprising teacher unions and ministries of education and health officials must be put in place to carry a Covid-19 risk assessment in schools and the levels of preparedness by schools for opening,” said Zhou.
“Any rushed decision to open schools before the above contingent measures are put in place would be suicidal, irresponsible and dereliction of duty by government. Our position is that we must urgently put these measures in place, after which we can then discuss the opening of schools.”
The PTUZ boss also urged the government to split the 2021 academic year into two terms.
“Our hope is that the government will listen and guide the Education Ministry to mellow down to a more constructive approach than adopting the usual irresponsible ‘commandist’ approach impermeable to reason and facts.
“Teachers are crucial in successful teaching and learning and their voices must be listened to rather than discarded, and their welfare, health and safety catered for,” he said.
Zhou reiterated the union’s call for the government to pay teachers salaries they were earning before the reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar in 2019.
“It is also prudent to pay teachers a living wage before schools open so that they are motivated, capacitated, dynamic, innovated and enthusiastic. The time for the restoration of the salaries of teachers’ purchasing power parity to US$520 to US$550 is now. This way we can ensure that once schools open there would be meaningful teaching and learning in schools,” said Zhou.
He also urged the government to rein in on schools charging exorbitant fees for form one enrollments.
“There is need for government’s intervention over exorbitant fees demanded in schools for form 1 enrollment. It would be foolhardy to expect teachers to troop to schools to offer other people’s children their services that their own children cannot access. Many other parents, who like teachers have tested positive to poverty, cannot afford the fees charged in schools this year.
“There is also need for new infrastructural development in schools and employment of more teachers in order to guarantee social distance,” added Zhou.