Teachers Refuse To Go Back To Work
20 May 2020
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THE Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has threatened legal action against government over the alleged lack of consultation by the Primary and Secondary Education ministry on modalities for the re-opening of schools in the face of COVID-19.

In a letter addressed to the Education ministry dated May 18, PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the educators were not willing to go back to school anytime soon fearing COVID-19 infection.

A formal engagement between PTUZ and the ministry before schools re-open is necessary “to avoid second-guessing each other and as well as for the purpose of collectively plotting the way forward for our education in light of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus epidemic”, Majongwe argued.

“The idea that the government can plan the date of re-opening schools without consulting a core constituency such as teachers is such an oversight that would normally end with lawyers for both sides tussling in court over the matter, and I believe you do not want to hazard that.

“We are not being cowards, and we believe there is no need for the ministry and government to exhibit Dutch courage in the face of the disease. Why then would the same government choose to experiment with learners and teachers when all other categories of interaction remain banned?”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced last week that examination classes under a COVID-19 safe environment will be re-opening, while plans were underway to re-open the entire education sector at a later stage.

Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema on Monday claimed that the government was putting in place adequate measures to protect teachers and learners ahead of the re-opening of schools.

“As a ministry, we have put in place plans to best prepare and support teachers and learners for a safe, secure and seamless transition back to quality teaching and learning in schools,” he said.

Teacher organisations, however, yesterday said government’s decision to hastily open schools without putting in place mitigatory measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 would endanger both the teachers and pupils.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) and PTUZ said the most worrying development was that schools were used as quarantine centres.

“Sadly, this announcement is in direct conflict with the situation obtaining on the ground, where schools are being used as COVID-19 quarantine centres,” Zimta said in a statement.

“This raises the simple question: Where are these classes expected to be carried out if these institutions are being used as quarantine centres?”

The teachers also accused government of abrogating its duty and forcing schools to produce protective clothing such as face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19.