By Anna Chibamu
THERE is an urgent need for government to improve the welfare of teachers before schools reopen, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Education has said.
This is one of its recommendations contained in a report on the preparedness of schools to reopen for the 2021 academic year.
The reopening of schools was early this year postponed after the country recorded a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths following a second wave of the pandemic.
Presenting its report before House of Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda, the portfolio committee chairperson, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said besides revisiting the teachers’ welfare concerns, there was need for government to also prioritise Covid-19 vaccination for teachers since they are frontline workers in the education sector.
She said if the welfare was not looked into, most teachers in public schools would not be able report for work due to incapacitation like what happened in 2021.
The non-availability of teachers last year was also reported as one of the reasons why Grade Seven students writing their final examinations had poor grades.
“There is need for government to comprehensively focus on improving the welfare of teachers and adequately equipping them before schools open,” said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
“We want finalisation of what happens between teachers and government over several grievances that have been raised by the teachers. Issues around engagement, the conversation of what is going to happen is very, very urgent. There is no point in us saying schools are opening next week when we do not know whether teachers are going to be present or not,” she said.
The committee said during its tour of schools across the country, it was shocked to find out that at one unnamed school in the Matabeleland region, seven teachers were sharing a single room for accommodation.
“We cannot expect teachers to go back to school when teachers are staying in one-room. In one case we found seven teachers sharing one room. It is important that government resolves the issue of accommodation for teachers.”
Teachers’ unions have threatened not to return to class if the government does not review its working conditions and salaries. Although no date has been announced, the government has confirmed the opening of schools is imminent.