By Mbekezeli Ncube/Bulawayo Correspondent
SCHOOL teachers around Bulawayo Monday heeded to boycott calls by their various unions after a few educators reported for duty following the resumption of schooling among examination classes.
Last month, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary announced that schools will reopen for exam sitting classes on 28 September.
A majority of teachers’ representative groups reacted by declaring their members were not going to report for duty citing incapacitation.
The restive workforce is demanding United States dollar wages and conditions that do not expose teachers to Covid-19.
Following schools opening Monday, NewZimbabwe.com took time to tour parts of Bulawayo’s western suburbs to observe what was happening around schools.
At Masotsha High School in Magwegwe North, very few teachers showed up for work even though students went to school in their numbers.
An online interview was also done to a teacher from Luveve’s Inyanda High School who said he was just relaxed at home and was not even thinking about going to work.
A teacher from Mthombowesizwe Primary school in Entumbane said she just reported for duty as she feared the government might deal with those who failed to report for work.
“Honestly, I cannot wake up every day and waste my time here for just ZWL$3 000, it’s unthinkable. I also spend money for transport for me to get here.
“The reason why I am here today is just because I did not want to be victimised. Otherwise if it continues like this, I will also not show up just like others,” she said.
Another teacher from Pumula South who works at Ngwalongwalo Primary said the school which when fully functioning, has 38 teachers, only had the school headmaster, his deputy and the Teacher in Charge of infant classes.
NewZimbabwe.com also interviewed several school going children and most of them confirmed only the school administrators were present at school.
The failure to report for work by school teachers is another form of headache for the Zanu PF led government and a setback for the country’s educating system which has taken a unprecedentedly long break as part of the country’s measures to limit chances of contracting Covid-19.
Teachers unions confirmed nearly all their members failed to report for duty on Monday.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said only one percent of its members reported for duty in Matabeleland North following the resumption of Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) examinations classes.
ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure said the union carried out a survey on the first day of the opening of the school which revealed that low teacher turnout.
“Teachers failed to turn up for duty. A survey conducted by the ARTUZ today (Monday) revealed that about 5% of teachers showed up in Mashonaland East and Matabeleland North was the worst hit with around 1 percent of our teachers showing up for duty.
“We still urge the government to engage teachers so that normalcy can be restored in our schools. Teachers should be paid a living wage and we still demand US$520 for all teachers,” said Masaraure.
He added, “We will continue on this path until the value of our salaries is restored but on the World Teachers Day (October 5), we are going to escalate our struggle. We are going to take to the streets.”
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) also said about 95 percent of its membership failed to report for duty.
“The response of the first day of opening was very encouraging. There was over 95 percent upsets of teacher in schools, confirming what we have highlighted to the government that teachers are incapacitated and that teachers could not be so silly to leave their own children at home whilst they are going to school to teach other people’s children.
“The fees that have been increased from $25 000 to $60 000 are beyond the reach of all the teachers who are now earning about $2 600 after funeral deductions of over $1 000 this month.
“So, it is clear that the teachers have spoken and their poverty and misery have shown beyond doubt that they are incapacitated and in the majority of schools even some heads failed to turn up because they are incapacitated and where a few heads turned up, they decided to send children home,” said PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou.
Zhou said the $600 million availed by government to schools for Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) procurement has not been received by the schools.
“Worse still, it has been proved that the so-called $600 million has not filtered to the schools because the majority of headmasters have reported that they do have a single mask let alone thermometers,” he said.