Teachers’ unions have called for mass testing in educational institutions ahead of the re-opening of schools while calling for the Government to expedite the payment of health insurance cover to teachers that have contracted COVID-19 while on duty.
Schools are supposed to open on Monday next week but concerns have been raised by several sectors over the safety of re-opening them amid an increase of coronavirus infections.
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At the beginning of the year, the Government promised that civil servants who contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty would receive health insurance cover ranging from US$650 to US$1 000 paid in local currency at the prevailing official exchange rate.
But Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Takavafira Zhou told The Sunday News that teachers across the country were still waiting for the payment of the health insurance cover as promised.
Zhou called for mass testing of teachers and pupils ahead of the opening of the second term, while also encouraging authorities to provide schools with the requisite Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). He said:
We also call upon the Government to seriously interrogate lucid options over the opening of second term learning.
Either Government must adopt a broad-based strategy of testing all teachers and pupils in order to combat the spread of COVID-19 in schools, in light of the recent quantum leap of cases.
It would also be prudent to provide COVID-19 abatement equipment to schools such as masks, sanitisers, thermometers, testing kits, as well as decongesting classes and hostels.
Zhou said if the start of the second term is postponed, the government and its development partners should come together to capacitate pupils in remote areas with online learning tools. Said Zhou:
Such postponement must be accompanied by a robust practical e-learning regime where teachers should utilise class and subject WhatsApp groups to promote learning.
Government must intervene in providing data to teachers and appeal to Unicef to assist in sourcing and providing learning gadgets like smartphones to pupils who do not have the learning tools, mostly in rural areas.
There is a need to act with urgency if the 2021 academic year has to be credible, otherwise, our results may be worse than the 2020 results that were disastrous.
Meanwhile, the National COVID-19 taskforce coordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva yesterday that the issue of the opening of schools was on the agenda and a final decision will be taken this week.