October 20, 2020

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Reopening of Schools Mirrored In Confusion And Uncertainty

Takavafira Zhou- In His Own Capacity

The dice has been cast and cabinet has directed that schools open on 14 September for Cambridge Exams and 28 September for Zimsec exams. What is clear from today’s enunciation is that the dates were long fixed without filtering any input from teachers that was submitted today. Yesterday’s belated request for Ptuz to submit its position was nothing other than rubber stamping a decision long made. It is clear that cabinet decision was informed by the so called NASID-National Association of Inspectors and Directors (DSI & Directors) that are far detached from school and classroom situations.

In their submission to cabinet NASID argued that “children are better at schools than home because at school they are monitored and supervised. At home parents are experiencing challenges in monitoring their children due to lots of idle time at their hands.” Nasid weirdly argued that covid 19 period “has shown that children are more at risk at home than at school.” Such perception is not only unfounded but also lacks epidemiological substance. Sadly, cabinet salivated at this poisoned Nasid carrot and made a political decision instead of a professional decision over the opening of schools. At any rate it is wrong for Nasid to assume monopoly of educational wisdom by virtue of occupying big offices as if knowledge comes through osmosis with those occupying big offices getting much of it.

We reiterate our long held view that there are safety, health and welfare conditionalities that must be met before reopening of schools. What we can safely say as of now is that teachers are ready to open schools any day provided gvt is prepared to test all pupils and teachers, let alone procure and place covid abatement equipment in schools ( testing kits, sanitizers, masks etc) before schools open. There can be no compromise on mandatory testing, more so because the lives of teachers and pupils matter. If parliamentarians did it, why not teachers and pupils?

Equally important is the issue of review of teachers’ salaries in line with their October 2018 salaries pegged at US$520 to US$550. Any attempt to fast track opening without addressing this quandary would be resisted by teachers. Any attempts to drive teachers back to schools without clear benchmarks in terms of their health, safety and welfare is unpalatable. Teachers as professionals cannot be driven to unknown pasture like cattle. As such, it is our hope that government would resolve the salary quandary by September pay day so that teachers can be motivated and be more innovative and dynamic in preparing pupils for examinations.

We however, need to reiterate the fact that exams are a process and not an event and we certainly don’t think meaningful exams can be written this year. It would have been better to ensure that schools open first before announcing examination dates. Sadly, the dates have been given and in the process we have put the cart before the horses.

In a nutshell, cabinet has at best provided a hap-hazardous muddling and meddling reopening of schools and writing of examinations. It is devoid of professional advice and more informed by expediency and therefore dangerous. Its success is based on fulfillment of conditionalities highlighted by teacher unions as opposed to warped and vacuous Nasid submissions. As teachers we will have no option but to defend our health, safety and welfare if they are not prioritised. It is our hope that government and Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education would do the most honourable thing of promoting industrial harmony and productivity than continued neglect of teachers’ genuine concerns.

Venceremos

Dr Takavafira M. Zhou (Ptuz President