13 February 2021
As PTUZ we are now aware gvt would be spelling out when schools can be opened at the end of this month. A considerable number of people, academics, gvt officials and parents want schools to be unconditionally opened soon. While as teachers we are ready to open schools any time, we are worried that there is virtually no preparation to open schools except enrolment and collection of exorbitant form 1 fees. Failure to plan is planning to fail as evidenced by disastrous Grade 7 results for 2020.
It is our humble submission that a myriads of measures must be put in place before schools can successfully open.
Fundamentally, opening of schools must be a product of gvt engagement with stakeholders particularly, teachers and parents. There is need to collectively agree on a sound roadmap that has support of teachers as implementers of reforms in schools. It is therefore prudent for gvt to engage teacher unions as a matter of urgency. It is unfortunate that the Ministry of Education propagandist, Ndoro claims that there is already a program designed to accelerate the learning and teaching of students in schools, which program was unilaterally designed by Ministry without engaging teachers. Such command and control antics and homiletic bellicose are unproductive in a terrain that calls for engagement and logical disputation to enhance successful implementation of educational reforms.
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-US$550, is now. This way we can ensure that once schools open there would be meaningful teaching and learning in schools.
There is urgent need for meaningful social dialogue in order to promote industrial harmony and productivity in schools. Collective begging with the illegal Apex Council whose leaders’ hands are greased by PSC into firefighting modus operandi would produce industrial disharmony and disrupt productivity in schools.
There is need for gvt intervention over exorbitant fees demanded in schools for form 1 enrolment. To expect a teacher earning $14000 (for many underpaid teachers) or even $18000 to pay US$200 to US$600 for uniform, and $30000 to $60000 for school fees per term, is next to impossible. 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 need for new infrastructural development in schools and employment of more teachers in order to guarantee social distance.
It is cogent to decongest hostels in schools as they proved to be vectors of covid 19 spread last year. It is not enough to restrict form 1 enrolment as form 2 to U6th students also stay in hostels.
It is prudent to prioritise the health and safety of teachers and pupils in schools. The provision of covid abatement equipment to schools is long overdue. Teachers and pupils must be tested before congregating in schools. Above all, after such testing gvt can also execute covid 19 vaccine on teachers and pupils, and therefore minimise the spread of covid pandemic when schools finally open.
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 levels of preparedness by schools for opening.
Any rushed decision to open schools before the above contingent measures are put in place would be suicidal, irresponsible and dereliction of duty by gvt. Covid is real. Our professional advice is that we must urgently put these measures in place, after which we can then discuss the opening of schools. It is important to consider dividing the 2021 academic year into two terms. Our hope is that gvt will listen to professional advice and guide the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to mellow down to a more constructive approach than adopting the usual irresponsible commandist approach impermeable to reason and facts. As such, opening of schools must be a process and not a mere pronouncement event. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. 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.
Dr Takavafira M. Zhou (PTUZ President)
13 February 2021