SILAS NKALA/LORRAINE MUROMO
Teacher unions have urged the government to suspend the remaining examinations to save lives as cases of COVID-19 continue to skyrocket, necessitating the imposition of stringent lockdown measures at the weekend.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga on Saturday suspended the reopening of schools, but allowed examination classes to go back to school to complete their examinations, as he introduced a raft of new measures that include closure of formal and informal business that are not essential service providers. Chiwenga also introduced a dusk to dawn curfew for the next 30 days to try to arrest the spiralling cases of COVID-19.
Government announced that only pupils writing examinations would be at school today to complete their examinations, while the rest of the learners would open at a date yet to be announced.
But the Progressive Teachers Union (PTUZ) and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) said government should consider completely closing the schools to avoid exposing pupils and teachers to the virus.
PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said the whole examination process should be suspended to save lives.
“We urge the ministry to postpone the writing of exams in light of the quantum leap of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“It is important to prioritise the health and safety of students, teachers and ancillary staff,” Zhou said yesterday.
Earlier on, PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe through the union’s official Twitter account said teachers and learners should only go back to school if government made a commitment to pay invigilation allowances as well as test for COVID-19 before anyone enters the examination room.
“We have only two conditions for invigilating the second phase of exams.
“Zimsec must pay for the invigilation, candidates and teachers must get tested for COVID-19, all of them before exams start,” Majongwe said.
In a statement the Artuz urged its members not to report for duty on Monday 4 January 2021 until COVID-19 is under control.
“The sharp increase in COVID-19 deaths in the last few days is a signal to defer opening of schools and Zimsec public examinations.
“Opening of schools for exam classes under the current situation will be equivalent to first degree murder by the responsible authorities,” the teacher union said in a statement.
“We are witnessing high profile people succumbing to COVID-19, a majority of them were admitted to private elite hospitals with better healthcare equipment as compared to public hospitals.
“This alone shows that teachers, economically disadvantaged students and low-class citizens are more trapped to death once infected.”
Artuz added: “Regardless of the COVID-19, teachers are highly incapacitated to report for duty.”