Goverment and teachers appear to be on a collision course over the opening of schools with just days left before the first group of learners trickle back to school.
Goverment has ordered that all examination classes return to school on Monday with the rest of the learners joining in phases up to the 9th of November.
Eight teachers’ unions yesterday in Harare expressed their worries over supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the need for improved salaries so teachers could get to work.
But Primary and Secondary Education Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema allayed their concerns both in terms of their protection and salaries.
The Government claims it has set aside $600 million to be distributed to needy schools to increase sanitation, he said, and the Government and representatives of civil servants are in discussion over salaries and negotiations are continuing.
“On the personal protective equipment issue, all teachers and learners will be protected; supporting staff will be protected. You can be rest assured that what is required at each public school will be available,” said Minister Mathema.
The issue of salaries was confirmed by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube. “We have a process where there are negotiations. I cannot pre-empt the outcome, I do not know the outcome. But as Government we have expressed to civil servants what we are able to afford. I am sure we will be able to find some middle ground and move forward as usual,” said Prof Ncube.
“We always find some middle ground and I always thank the civil servants for working very hard, especially working with me. I am a hard charging individual, so they work very hard. So I personally want to make sure and the whole Government feels like that, that they are well looked after.
“We have done our best under the Covid-19 pandemic. We have even put the cushion in terms of the US$75 allowance and US$30 for pensioners, and let us also not forget our pensioners. So I think we will be able to reach a palatable ground and support them.”
National Association of Secondary Heads president, Mr Arthur Maposa, raised concerns over the transport of pupils and teachers to schools when they reopen.
In response Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had already approved dedicated Zupco buses to ferry pupils to schools for examinations.
National Association of Primary Heads chair Mrs Cynthia Khumalo said it was all systems go for Grade Seven classes and examinations but raised concern for the other classes.
Though it will be based on operational procedure at each school, Minister Mathema said schools will be directed to decongest their classes and leaners will not be supposed to attend classes at one go.