Teachers have slammed government for compressing the school calendar by resorting to the traditional three-term system, instead of two terms, to give students more learning time after losing almost a third of the year at home due to COVID-19 lockdown.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou in a statement yesterday called on government to consider revising the three-term 2021 school calendar, arguing that it strained parents financially on school fees, since it was spread over nine months.
Zhou also argued that there was no justification to opt for the three-term system except to fleece parents of their hard-earned money by charging them exorbitant fees.
Teachers’ unions also said government must solve the Form 1 enrolment quagmire, where students were struggling to secure places before opening of schools.
The PTUZ said the decision to reopen schools was not informed by research as most secondary school teachers would still be marking the 2020 “O” and “A” Level examination papers until March 27.
Government recently released the 2021 schools calendar showing that the first term begins on March 15 for the examination classes, with the rest of the classes opening on March 22.
The first term ends on June 4, with the second term beginning on June 28 and ending on September 10. The third term is set to begin on October 4 and ends on December 17.
“First, it is noteworthy that secondary school teachers would be marking 2020 ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations up to March 27. This would be followed by the Easter holiday in early April. There is, therefore, no justification to open schools until after the holiday.
“Many Grade 7 pupils also have not secured places for Form 1 after several schools drastically reduced intakes in order to create room for Forms 2, 3, Lower and Upper Sixth form classes and hostels. It is prudent for government to ensure that it has resolved the quagmire of 2021 Form 1 enrolment before schools can open.”
“A more feasible calendar should have considered opening of schools after Easter holiday in April up to end of July with the second term beginning from early September to December in order to give students more learning time and teachers more teaching and assessment time to thoroughly prepare for internal and external examinations.”
He said there has not been dialogue with teachers’ unions over broad-based planning for successful opening of schools, adding that teachers remained incapacitated to report for work.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said: “The government is not investing in proper planning ahead of schools opening. Opening schools in the absence of teachers who are marking examinations will only compound on the pre-existing crisis of teacher incapacitation and the apparent COVID 19 scare.
“Government is preoccupied with ticking the boxes to say there was learning in 2021. They don’t care about the outcome. The attempt to compress the curriculum in three terms will be a monumental failure as teachers will not show up, learning fatigue will kick in and parents will also fail to pay fees.”
Zimbabwe National Teachers Union chief executive Manuel Nyawo said: “The laid out calendar does not give the candidates of the June examinations enough time to prepare for the exams.”
However, Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu supported the three-term calendar, saying it would give students ample time to catch up on lessons.
“Each term in the just-released calendar ranges from 53 to 55 days, whereas the normal term was 63 days long. Therefore, the 53 days are to ensure that learners catch up. Dividing the term into three also gives learners and teachers enough time for a break for psychological preparedness for the following term,” Ndlovu said.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said: “The 2021 school calendar was released by Cabinet after thorough consultations and pupils are ready for the reopening of schools. Teachers unions cannot abruptly call for a last-minute amendment of the calendar which has been already released.”
In the National Assembly yesterday, Local Government minister July Moyo said his ministry would assist the Primary and Secondary Education ministry by availing Zupco buses specifically for schoolchildren to enhance smooth travel as schools open next week. -Newsday