Teachers’ unions say schools may turn into coronavirus super spreaders, with slightly more than 5 per cent of the educators having been vaccinated against the virus.
Speaking to Grazers News just before schools reopened on Monday, Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou revealed that a mere 5.5 per cent of the teachers had received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines. He said:
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Out of 140 000 teachers only 7 500, or about 5.5 per cent, have been vaccinated. There is virtually no fumigation taking place in schools.
Government last week ordered schools that had closed in early June this year to reopen for examination classes on Monday, 30 August 2021, and for the rest of the classes on 6 September.
The announcement came barely 24 hours after the government extended the Level Four COVID-19 induced lockdown by another two weeks.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure, and Richard Gundani, leader of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) both voiced concern about the low number of vaccinated teachers.
In a 30 August letter addressed to the Primary and Secondary Education ministry’s permanent secretary, Tumisang Thabela, ARTUZ secretary-general, Robson Chere, said teachers would not be able to attend classes.
He urged the government to convene an urgent meeting with teachers to discuss school re-opening. Said Chere:
With this lack of preparedness, schools will become hotspots and super-spreaders. Re-opening of schools should happen after a process of serious consultation and guided by scientific methods and evidence.
Zhou said it’s suicidal to reopen schools when the majority of teachers and virtually all learners have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19. He said:
It is suicidal and genocidal to open schools under such conditions. It would be a terrible blunder to allow 140 000 teachers, 6 million pupils and ancillary staff to conglomerate in schools without testing them.
Gundani said it was unwise for the government to rush to reopen schools without adequate preparations. He said:
We must be guided by the number of teachers vaccinated. At the moment the numbers are too low.
At a school with 1 000 pupils, we may have 70 teachers, 20 ancillary staff and visitors. The place can therefore become a super spreader of COVID-19.
Last week the government announced that it would ensure the vaccination of children in the 14-17 years age group, it has not availed a plan to do so once the students are back in school and it would require parents’ or guardians’ consent.
Meanwhile, Taungana Ndoro, the Education ministry spokesperson, insisted to Grazers News that students were being vaccinated and schools fumigated.