BY BEAUTY NYUKE/LORRAINE MUROMO
THE Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) yesterday said most public schools were not yet ready to open, proposing that they open mid-September when the temperatures would be high to slow down COVID-19 infections.
In a statement, PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said the recent statement by Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema that schools were now ready to reopen following an assessment were far from the truth.
“We envision opening of schools after mid-September as this remains reasonable on the hope that further vaccinations and high temperatures would have by then lowered COVID-19 cases in the country,” the statement read.
“Although our national survey is still ongoing, preliminary reports 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 and hostels as there are no new infrastructural developments in most schools,” he said.
Mathema recently told MPs that adequate preparations had been made for the reopening of schools, adding that the ministry was waiting for the greenlight from Cabinet to announce opening dates.
Zhou said implementation of World Health Organisation (WHO) and ministry-stipulated standard operating procedures was still a challenge for pupils.
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He said in most schools, there was no running water or reliable sources of water and COVID-19 equipment for use, which would expose learners and teachers to COVID-19.
He said only 5,6% of the 140 000 teachers had been vaccinated, against the recommended 65%, which was unsafe for teachers and schoolchildren.
Zhou suggested the vaccination of pupils below 16 years, which has not yet been approved.
“The government is supposed to engage teachers, who in essence are the linchpin behind successful opening of schools. No concerted efforts are being done by government to address the welfare of teachers and even salary discrepancies with other government workers,” he said.
Zhou said while teachers appreciated the lockdown extension by two weeks, the period was not adequate to warrant the safe opening of schools for face-to-face learning.
“All the same, our mandate remains merely giving professional advice which those in power may take into consideration in making decisions or ignore at the peril of the educational sector,” Zhou said.
“Any rushed decision for face-to-face learning in schools could be suicidal and worse than the current challenges.”
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said adequate monitoring visits have been carried out at schools throughout the country.
“They were carried out inclusive of partners and PTUZ,” Ndoro said.
He said the monitoring was quite thorough.
“A number of schools are ready to open, but as directed by the President, schools are to remain closed until government assesses that the COVID-19 pandemic risks are low,” Ndoro said.
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