Teachers’ Unions, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), Progressive Teachers Union (PTUZ), Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, (TUZ), Zimbabwe Democratic Teachers’ Union, (ZDTU), Zimbabwe National Educators’ Union, (ZINEU), Zimbabwe National Teachers’ Union, (ZINATU) and the Zimbabwe Rural Teachers’ Union, (ZRTU) have issued a joint statement dissuading government from opening schools prematurely. Read the statement:
Appreciating the spirit of engagement between government and teacher unions as evidenced by the meeting held on the 20th of May 2020;
Determined to have a safe teaching and learning environment;
Concerned with the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in our country;
Aware of some reckless bravery being exhibited by some ill-informed sections of society bent on opening schools for expediency and primitive accumulation of wealth and;
Desiring to open learning institutions as soon as it is practicable,
We, the undersigned Teacher Unions in Zimbabwe, now therefore, urge the Government of Zimbabwe to:
1. Desist from an impulse opening of schools without ensuring that it is very safe to do so,
2. Open churches, bars and weddings first before schools to assess the contagious effect of gatherings of 50 plus people,
3. Ensure that the Coronavirus epidemic is totally under control before taking the steps of opening of schools.
4. Ensure the verifiable fumigation of all schools before they open as well as at regular intervals thereafter. Schools that are currently used as quarantine zones should go through rigorous fumigation and confirmed safe by competent personnel in the Ministry of Health and Childcare,
5. Ensure the rapid testing of all pupils and teachers before schools open for business and provision of the same at regular intervals,
6. Pay an acceptable risk allowance to teachers as in essence they are frontline workers in the education system.
7. Capacitate teachers in identifying and handling Covid-19 in case of infections or reinfections in schools,
8. Postpone ZIMSEC June examinations until it’s verifiably safer to write them;
9. Consider and assess the impact of returnees from high risk countries flocking back at the moment, both through official and illegal means
10. Enable the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to establish a task force comprising teacher unions, health and education officials to carry out Covid-19 risk assessment in schools,
11. Take cognisance of the effects of the cold season we are entering as it quickens infection rates of this type of epidemic,
12. Reduce teacher-pupil ratio to 1:20 through employing more teachers urgently,
13. Supply PPEs, test kits, thermometers and sanitizers to all 10 000 schools. These should be adequate enough for 4.6 million students, 136 000 teachers, and ancillary staff,
14. Ensure uninterrupted provision of safe running water for all schools,
15. Ensure through the line Ministry that every pupil has at least 3 washable and safe masks,
16. Stop the use of teaching and learning facilities for political gatherings or any unnecessary congregations in order to minimize the risk of infection of teachers, ancillary staff and learners,
17. Test samples of masks and sanitisers produced for use by teachers and learners to ascertain if they meet the standard requirements as stipulated by WHO or the Ministry of Health and Childcare.
18. Pay teachers salaries that resonate with their 2018 salaries of US$520 or its inter-bank rate equivalent in order to restore salaries’ purchasing power parity that has been eroded by conversion to local currency, together with the attendant inflation,
19. Provide a workable plan for teachers with pre-existing medical conditions in order to reduce or eliminate their possible exposure to Covid-19.
As teachers unions, we reiterate our preparedness to guard our members and working areas jealously against the seasons of folly, reckless courage, and outright ignorance.
We will not accept anything less than the reopening of schools under a safe and healthy environment.
We are indeed arbiters of a nation’s destiny whose health and safety must be prioritised. As such, we will not be frog-marched into opening schools before the country has met the conditions set by WHO.
Any premature opening of schools without conditionalitie
s echoed by WHO would be suicidal and genocidal.
As such, we trust and hope the government, let alone the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, will put reason before choler and avoid unnecessary antagonisation of teachers, pupils and even parents.
Jointly signed by:
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, ARTUZ – 0775643192
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, PTUZ 0772198868
Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, TUZ 0775914024
Zimbabwe Democratic Teachers’ Union, ZDTU 0772918732
Zimbabwe National Educators’ Union, ZINEU 0715815347
Zimbabwe National Teachers’ Union, ZINATU 0774013500
Zimbabwe Rural Teachers’ Union, ZRTU 0773967412