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Schools to close in December



GOVERNMENT yesterday released a new education calendar that would see schools opening on Monday in a staggered format and close on December 17, and open on January 11 for the first term of 2022.

This is contained in a Primary and Secondary Education ministry amended school calendar for 2021 released yesterday by permanent secretary Tumisang Thabela.

According to the new calendar, pupils who missed the second term due to the ravaging third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be in school for 80 days before taking a 24-day holiday and open again on January 11, 2022.

This came as teachers vowed yesterday that they would not report for duty when schools reopen for examination classes next week, demanding an upward review of their salaries.

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa on Wednesday announced a staggered reopening of schools, with examination classes set to resume face-to-face lessons on August 30 while the rest of the learners will join them on September 6.

Mutsvangwa, who said government, working on science-based advice, would vaccinate children aged between 14 and 17, yesterday told Senate that the programme remained voluntary.

Announcing the reopening of schools, Mutsvangwa said government had reached the decision in consultation with the Health ministry and teachers’ unions, but the latter denied the claims. They accused government of ambushing them on the reopening of schools.

In separate interviews, the unions accused the government of failing to consult and address their calls for better salaries.  The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) threatened to mobilise its members to protest starting Monday to ensure schools do not reopen as scheduled.

“Artuz implores the government to urgently restore salaries to pre-October 2018 levels so that effective learning can resume. The vague claim of preparations does not speak to teacher preparedness to teach, learner preparedness to learn, parents’ preparedness to fund education and schools’ preparedness for safety in face of COVID-19,” Artuz president Obert Masaraure said.

“Monday August 30, 2021 is, hereby, declared as day of national action to demand right to education as set out in section 75 of the Constitution. Citizens are invited to join our nationwide protests set for Monday 30 August 2021.”

Schools have been closed since June 4 when the country recorded a surge in COVID-19 cases and fatalities. In recent weeks, there has been a steady fall in confirmed cases, necessitating the need for the reopening of schools and the economy in general.

Teachers have been demanding the equivalent of the US$500 they used to earn pre-2018, insisting that their employer had the capacity to meet their wage demands given its penchant to pamper its top executives including leaders of fringe opposition parties with top-of-the-range vehicles, among other freebies.

Government, which in June claimed to have recorded a budget surplus of $9,8 billion during the first quarter of this year,  it insists that it has no capacity to increase civil servants’ salaries.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou argued that the government’s “irresponsible commandist and hardline” approach to education would not intimidate teachers to return to class on Monday.

“It is oxymoronic that the government declares an extension of the lockdown by two weeks and decides to open schools during the lockdown period,” Zhou said.

“All the same, feedback that we have received from members seems to indicate that schools may not successfully open unless government moves swiftly to address long-standing incapacitation and health and safety issues which we don’t see it doing given its intransigent and irresponsible commandist and hardline approach impermeable to reason and facts.”

Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) secretary-general Goodell Taderera added: “They glossed over consultations by the Education ministry that involved all stakeholders where we indicated that schools would be opened mid-September when we have really seen graphs going down. Now just at the beginning of graphs going down, they decide to open schools and they should be responsible for consequences to arise thereof.”

In April, government threatened to dock salaries of teachers when they went on strike demanding better pay.  However, teachers have remained steadfast in their push for living wages despite the intimidation.

Learners spent the better part of last year under lockdown due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, leading to their poor performance in the final examinations.

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