The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Ptuz) says 98 percent local schools are not ready to reopen due to myriad challenges, contrary to recent claims by authorities it was all systems go.
This follows indications by Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema in parliament recently that most Zimbabwean schools were ready to reopen.
Matemba said his ministry was only waiting for the green light from cabinet to open schools.
But PTUZ insists the majority local learning institutions in the country were still burdened by a lot of challenges rendering sentiments by government a fallacy.
In a statement, PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said the militant teachers group has independently established that only 2% schools comprising better resourced private institutions were ready the usher in learners for the 2021 second term.
“Although our national survey as Ptuz is still ongoing, preliminary reports we have received reflect a high level of unpreparedness in 98% of the schools, with only 2% school preparedness in private and former group A schools,” Zhou said.
The level of unpreparedness is epitomised by “bloated classes in schools, no new infrastructure, development in all schools and would be congested hostels in boarding schools”.
Zhou also said there have not been any attempts by government to recruit new teachers in spite of existing school vacancies as well as difficulties of ensuring social distance among learners in terms of WHO standards and Ministry of Education standard operation procedures.
The union chief said among some of the reasons why schools cannot reopen as yet are “no running water or reliable source of water in many schools, lack of covid abatement equipment in schools, vaccination of 5. 6% of the 140000 teachers, against 65% considered safe to combat the spread of covid 19”.
He also said there was “high attritional weekly and monthly death rates of teachers, no vaccination of pupils above 16 years, no engagement with teachers who in essence are the linchpin behind successful opening of schools and no concerted efforts by government to address the welfare of teachers and even salary discrepancies with other government workers.”
Zimbabwean schools, which were set to reopen 28 June this year, have remained closed owing to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
The situation has led to massive devastation with the education sector losing a lot of its staff due to the pandemic.
FULL PTUZ STATEMENT:
Public Schools Not Ready for Opening
10 August 2021
That public schools are not ready for opening is a fact that cannot be disputed. Recently, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Schools established Joint Monitoring Teams that are assessing the preparedness of schools for reopening.
However, after a day of visiting schools in Masvingo last week, the Minister, Hon Cain Mathema, declared that most schools were ready to reopen.
The Minister also recently informed parliament that most schools were ready to reopen and the Ministry was only waiting for the green light from cabinet to open schools.
It would, therefore, seem that the joint monitoring process is nothing more than registering a fait accompli.
The process is also defective in that the head office informs the provincial offices about the visits, which in turn inform the district offices about the visits.
The district offices inform the heads of schools to be visited and order them to improve the schools before the visits.
Indicators of areas to be improved are even given before the visits. Worse still the monitoring teams visit mostly schools in the proximity of good roads leaving several schools in remote areas that ordinarily warrant visits.
Although our national survey as Ptuz is still ongoing, preliminary reports we have received reflect a high level of unpreparedness in 98% of the schools, with only 2% school preparedness in private and former group A schools. The level of unpreparedness is epitomised by:
-Bloated classes in schools
-No new infrustural development in all schools
-Would be congested hostels in boarding schools
-No recruitment of new teachers in spite of existing school vacances
-Difficulties of ensuring social distance in terms of WHO standards and Ministry of Education standard operation procedures
– No running water or reliable source of water in many schools
-lack of covid abatement equipment in schools
-vaccination of 5. 6% of the 140000 teachers, against 65% considered safe to combat the spread of covid 19.
-High attritional weekly and monthly death rates of teachers
– No vaccination of pupils above 16 years
-No engagement with teachers who in essence are the linchpin behind successful opening of schools
-No concerted efforts by gvt to address the welfare of teachers and even salary discrepancies with other gvt workers.
As much as we appreciate the President’s extension by two more weeks of the current national restrictions, by no means would the two weeks be adequate enough to warrant opening of schools for face-to-face learning in schools.
Ptuz envisioned opening of schools after mid-September remains reasonable on the hope that further vaccinations and high temperatures would have by then lowered covid 19 cases.
We also hope gvt would have addressed most of the above challenges. The greatest challenge facing the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is self-pollination in its preparation of reopening schools, which in essence produces weak species (plans). PSC commission (or gvt) is also flouting collective bargaining with teacher Unions, with the consequent salary discrepancies between teachers and other gvt workers.
Our candid position as Ptuz is that we will not allow educational vandals to pull and push the country’s education sector along the trajectory path of narrow-mindedness, prejudice and parochialism.
All the same our mandate remains merely giving professional advice which those with power may take into consideration in making decisions or ignore at the peril of the educational sector. It is our hope that the gvt would accept our sober professional insights and channel efforts towards a paradigm shift in pedagogical ethos so that we can urgently assist pupils in the safety of their homes until an opportune time, possibly from mid-September.
Any rushed decision for face-to-face learning in schools could be suicidal and worse than the current challenges.
Dr Takavafira M. Zhou (Ptuz President)