BY LORRAINE MUROMO
ZIMBABWE Rural Teachers’ Union (ZRTU) has bemoaned deteriorating working conditions its members were exposed to during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with NewsDay, ZRTU national co-ordinator Wonder Nyapokoto said rural teachers were being forced to work under harsh conditions.
“The rural school is under-resourced. Most children do not pay the little levies asked of them since their parents are indigent,” he said. “Schools lack textbooks, sufficient syllabi. In short, the rural school operates, even under ‘normal’ circumstances, with grossly inadequate necessary materials.”
Nyapokoto said due to the resurgence of the COVID-19 and the resultant lockdown, the situation had become dire.
“Enter COVID-19. The dire situation becomes untenable. In most rural schools, water is inadequate or 4km away,” he said, adding: “Schools were asked to find masks for learners, but then the money will not be available. What is supplied is far too short of the requirements, hence, the assertion that rural schools are discriminated against.”
Nyapokoto said personal protective equipment was inadequate among other necessities in the fight against COVID-19.
“Water is not readily available. Sanitisers are not enough. Schools get only one thermometer and can’t afford to repair it if it breaks down,” he said.
Progressive Teachers’ Union president Takavafira Zhou said on a broader perspective, the working conditions of teachers from the urban areas to the periphery were dire.
“The working conditions of teachers are bad in all areas but particularly worse in remote areas where parents no longer see the value of education, for example in areas such as Chiredzi, Masvingo and Gokwe, among others,” Zhou said.
“The conditions of the teacher are so arid and rigid that they are demotivated to carry on with their teaching duties. The situation is terrible; the economy is not on a sound footing that teachers can barely pay their utility bills,” he said.
Zhou said there was urgent need for the government to introduce measures to ensure that teachers were cushioned.
“Government should introduce a fund to cover remote schools in terms of operations so that they can operate on the same wave length and standards as others,” he said. “Government should also give out more incentives to teachers working in remote areas so as to avoid a high turnover where they would be requesting transfers after failing to adjust to the environment.”
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba last week accused rural teachers of causing the high failure rate in the 2020 Zimbabwe School Examinations Council Grade Seven results released last week.
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