The president of the Progressive Teachers Unions of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Dr Takavafira Zhou has criticised President Emmerson Mnangagwa for opting to keep schools open even at the backdrop of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
We present Dr Zhou’s statement in full below.
The Decision to Keep Schools Open in the Wake of Corona Virus Pandemic, Insensitive, Illogical and Oxymoronic
18 March 2020
In his address to the Nation yesterday, President Mnangagwa announced a raft of measures in response to the corona virus pandemic. Such measures include, among other things, restriction of movements and gatherings; banning of gatherings of more than 100 people; postponement of public events such as ZITF and Independence Celebrations.
It was, however, the enunciation that since schools are only two weeks away from the end of term they will remain open, that baffled logic and common sense. By implication does the President posits that corona virus cannot spread in two weeks? Worse still does he imply enrolments in schools are less than 100? It is Oxymoronic and illogical to ban gatherings everywhere except in schools as if teachers and pupils do not gather and are immune to the Coronavirus. Schools are the most dangerous places for the spread of any pandemic more so given the fact that some schools have an enrolment of more than 2000 pupils and in the event of a single person getting infected with the virus, the vector spread effect could be so swift given the number of students and various families from which they come from. Not surprisingly various countries abroad, continentally and regionally have closed schools in their comprehensive response strategies. For Zimbabwe, therefore, to respond otherwise is not only vogue, vapid and vacuous, but also callous and monumental injustice against teachers and pupils. Many schools dotted across the country, located in tourists areas and bordering other countries that have confirmed cases of Corona virus infection are far detached from quarantine centres or health facilities so that they pose a great danger if they remain open. Is it because Zimbabwean leaders have no children learning in Zimbabwe and no relative in the teaching fraternity so much that they have adopted an intransigent and irresponsible approach to corona virus pandemic in the education sector?
As Ptuz, we want to convey our greatest anger and disillusionment at the health and professional insult by President Mnangagwa, let alone gambling with teachers and pupils’ lives. His enunciation is unacceptable, provocative and insensitive to the threat posed by corona virus to humanity. The measures enunciated in his address are in all earnest and honest with respect to schools, a high sounding nothing, if not a tissue of misrepresentation and insult to the education sector. Such a health threat to pupils and teachers can never be tolerated. Worse still the pronunciation is not a product of engagement with educators, but unilateral decision of the President and dangerous. As the pronunciation to keep schools open is a question of life and death, teachers will not accept it. We hope govt will urgently review this as a matter of urgency. If nothing is forthcoming from the government by the end of this week, teachers would not be held responsible for closing schools. We urge teachers across the union divide, to urgently pass district and provincial resolutions that should shape teachers’ urgent nation response in case there is no urgent response from govt. There is certainly no life after death for teachers and pupils. We cannot be treated in a discriminatory, degrading and servitude manner in comparison to other citizens. We are managers of the nation and world’s greatest resource, viz, children, and therefore our health and security of the resource must be guaranteed, and not exposed to the vagaries of virus and decimation.
Dr Takavafira M. Zhou (Ptuz President)