Faced with a nationwide cholera outbreak that has claimed 31 lives and left thousands others infected, two leading teachers’ unions have called for the closure of all schools until the disease is contained.
By Tatenda Chitagu
The cholera outbreak started in Harare before spreading to other parts of the country. In Masvingo, one person died from the waterborne disease, while one suspected case has been recorded.
In a letter addressed to Primary and Secondary Education permanent secretary, Silvia Utete-Masango dated September 18, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) said schools were susceptible to the spread of the disease as witnessed at another school in Glen View, which has since been closed.
“Artuz has concluded its research on the state of preparedness of schools to handle the cholera outbreak. Our schools are not safe and have no capacity to mitigate against the deadly cholera outbreak,” read the letter.
“Harare day schools are the worst affected, given the high mobility of Harare population coupled with lack of safe running water.”
Artuz said the centralised model of both the governance and economic architecture forced people from other parts of the country to go to Harare for one reason or the other.
“Under such circumstances, no one is safe. Schools in rural outposts will be the worst affected as soon as they don’t have running water,” said the teachers’ union.
Artuz president Obert Masaraure said their call was in line with government’s pronouncement that banned all public gatherings.
“Artuz calls for the closure of all schools, in line with government’s pronouncement banning all public gatherings. Schools should only open when we have successfully contained the cholera pandemic,” he said.
Progressive Teachers’ Union in Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said although it was the term for the final examinations, some of the pupils could fail to sit for the examinations because of illness or death.
“We might want pupils to go to schools, but the situation is not good. The kids may fail to write the examinations while hospitalised. I think we should put importance on lives, not examinations,” Zhou said.