By Bulawayo Correspondent, Mbekezeli Ncube, James Muonwa
SCHOOL children were sent back home Monday at most schools in Bulawayo and parts of Mashonaland West as teachers failed to turn up for duty upon full resumption of learning after months of a Covid-19 induced school break.
Learners found the gates at some school premises locked, forcing them to go back home or wait for their parents and guardians to come and pick them up.
Other schools sent parents messages prior opening day telling them not to bother bringing their children.
Some schools have come up with a calendar of teaching days where classes have been assigned two days of learning per week.
“I accompanied my kids to school this (Monday) morning, but I was told to take them back home because there were no teachers.
“I anticipated this because the headmistress told parents that the situation at the school was not ideal for any learning.
“The government should not have directed schools to open without adequate preparation,” said a parent at Bulawayo’s Khumalo primary school who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.
“We have paid fees, but our children are not learning,” fumed one parent.
“What happens now in such a situation? I will want to blame the teachers, but the government has to pay teachers. It’s a good thing for me my children are not sitting for examinations, otherwise they were going to fail.
“Now we are told our children will be learning two days a week, is this some sort of a holiday?” said another parent.
NewZimbabwe.com also witnessed situations in which several parents were collecting their children from the school.
A headmaster at a school situated in Pumula suburb said even though children came back in their numbers, it was not a number he expected and he was convinced that a lesser number will show up this Tuesday.
“In Pumula its low, no teacher reported for duty at my school. Children managed to come but they are fewer than expected meaning some of them who came today are not coming tomorrow,” he said.
At Percy Ibboston Primary in Luveve, children were left to their own devices at the risk of contracting Covid-19 while Luveve Primary school learners were told to go back home.
A parent who has a child Robert Tredgold Primary said the headmaster sent the pupils back home saying he could not handle them on his own.
There was also poor attendance in the Bulawayo’s Khami district, which includes schools like Mbizo, Matshayisikhova, Mafakela and Fusi Primary schools among others.
“There was a very poor turnout of teachers in schools around our districts, some of the schools did not even open the gates for children to enter while in some other schools they (children) were told to go back home,” said another teacher.
In Chinhoyi, Karoi and Kariba, the majority of teachers did not report for work, save for tutors at Sinoia Primary School.
At Sinoia Primary School, the administrators and parents reportedly entered into an agreement in which parents pay US$10 per child, an amount that would be directed towards teachers’ incentives.
“Our parents agreed to pay US$10 per child so that teachers come to work. This is a mutual win-win deal so that classes are not disrupted,” said a teacher who requested anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media.
Hordes of dejected learners at Chinhoyi’s Lomagundi, Chaedza and Mhanyame were spotted returning home after being told classes would not begin.
The situation was the same at Karoi Junior, Tambawadya Primary School and Chikangwe in Karoi.
In Kariba, teachers did not turn up for lessons at Nyamhunga, Nyanhewe and Nyamhunga primary schools.
The trend was similar at Nyamhunga Secondary School where learners were seen loitering around the campus, evidence no teaching and learning was going on.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Takavafira Zhou said the teachers’ absence was not voluntary but caused by their employer’s unilateral reduction of the educators’ wages from between US$520 to US$550 in October 2018 to less than US$40 by September 2020.
“We want to make it categorically clear without any equivocation or ambiguity that teachers would be conspicuous by their absence in schools.
“Teachers have been incapacitated by the government and must be capacitated by government in order to go back to their workplaces.
“Indeed teachers are also parents with responsibilities to cater for their families including paying fees at boarding schools which sadly is now beyond their ability following exorbitant increases ranging from US$240 (ZWL$24 000) to US$600 (ZWL$60 000),” said Zhou.
When reached for comment, Bulawayo Provincial Education Director, Olicah Kaira professed ignorance over reports some learners were being turned away.
“May I investigate first,” she said.