Schools opening in doubt as teachers declare incapacitation

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Farai Mabeza

Government’s plans to finally reopen public schools on September 28 after the long COVID-19 shutdown are under threat from teachers who have vowed not to report for work due to incapacitation.

In a circular, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association national secretary general Sibanda Tapson Nganunu said teachers had been hard hit by economic decline being experienced in the country and they blamed it on the adoption of RTGS as an official currency.

He said this has resulted in the teachers’ living conditions being unparalleled to anything human while worsening their plight in the COVID-19 environment.

 “This circular conveys the ZIMTA National Executive decision of 20 September 2020 on declaration of incapacitation of teachers with regards to opening of schools on the 28th of September 2020,” Nganunu said in the circular addressed to the association’s members.

The ZIMTA national executive declaration of incapacitation cites a number of concerns including what it terms the self-dollarization of the economy saying transport fares are now charged in United States dollars and Rands on most routes.

The teachers’ association also expressed concern that members’ salaries have been eroded to an equivalent of between US$30 and US$35 and they were appalled by the wide and unjustified disparities in basic salaries between teachers and other public servants.

ZIMTA added to its list of grievances the continued rise in the cost of living and the high costs of school fees, rentals, medical insurance, funeral insurance and clothing which are now out of reach for the educators.

Furthermore, the teachers’ association alleges that the pronouncement of opening of schools dates was done without consultation of other stakeholders while there are concerns for the safety of teachers since most schools lack COVID-19 preparedness.

“After a wide consultation of all our forty-two thousand (42 000) members across all ten of the country’s provinces, the ZIMTA National Executive hereby declares that all educators will not be able to report for duty on the 28th of September 2020 for opening of schools as they are incapacitated.”

ZIMTA laid out the conditions that it says must be met by government including the implementation of World Health Organization guidelines against COVID-19, restoration of the purchasing power parity of teachers’ salaries to US$520 and implementation of meaningful sector specific allowances which consider teachers’ status and responsibilities.

On the COVID-19 allowances announced by government, ZIMTA said, they must be a result of a negotiation process instead of through the benevolence of the President.

“Unless the above conditions are met educators remain incapacitated and hence willing but unable to report for duty.”

Government announced, early this month, that schools would open for final examination classes starting with Cambridge examination candidates who resumed lessons last week.

However, pupils sitting for the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) examinations will resuming classes on September 28 and these include Upper Six, Form Four and Grade Seven classes with Zimsec examinations starting on December 1.

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