By Takavafira Zhou
Government must learn to listen to professional advice rather than operate through hap- hazardous muddling and meddling through. When we pointed out that schools were ill-prepared to abate Covid 19 pandemic, as a professional group of teachers, we were labelled agents of regime change. It is now crystal clear that whatever Minister Matema and permanent secretary Thabela saw as semblance of preparation was nothing other than a tissue of misrepresentation. Sadly, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education propagandist by the name of Ndoro, continues belting and barraging a facade of lies on a daily basis. The bottom line is that the more than $600 million meant to procure and supply schools with Covid abatement equipment never filtered to schools. More than 80% of schools do not have constant supply of water, thermometers, sanitisers, masks etc. Not even a single school has testing kits while social distance has remained a luxury than a pre-requisite, more so in light of bloated classes, infrastructural restrictions, and failure to recruit more 50 000 additional teachers needed to guarantee appropriate teacher: pupil ratio.
The results are terrible, viz,
-more than 184 cases of covid 19 at John Tallach in Mat North
-more than 57 cases at Chinhoyi High, Mash West
-more than 20 cases at All Souls Mission, Mutoko
- more than 10 cases at Matopo High, Mat South
-reported cases at Emakhadeni Primary, Bulawayo
-3 reported cases Rujeko Primary, Masvingo
-Reported cases, Prince Edward, Harare
-Reported case, David Livingstone, Harare
-reported case, Avocar Primary, Bindura
-reported cases, plumtree schools, Mat South.
-Many other teachers and students are positive but have not yet been tested or are waiting for confirmation of results. It is dangerous for gvt to claim that the cases are minimal when it has no capacity to test all teachers, students and ancillary staff in schools.
Put succinctly, all provinces have reported cases of covid 19 in schools. While covid 19 cases are rampaging through schools government response remains baffling, viz, government want to keep bars closed. Do these officials realise that Covid 19 is in schools not bars? We had as Ptuz encouraged govertment to open bars (where majors are only allowed) first before they opened schools (where majoritarian are minors), but our candid advice was thrown out of the window.
Government insists that learning must continue in schools even bellowing that Covid 19 positive students will be allowed to write examination in their quarantined schools. This is madness of the worst order. These officials think the Covid 19 positive students are in their rightful mind to write stressful examinations most of whose content they have not covered? They also assume that any normal teacher can invigilate such students, let alone mark their papers without fear of getting infected with Covid 19. For the avoidance of doubt students are not ready for such examinations and enforcing writing of examinations by Covid 19 positive students would be a violation of their rights and stressful. No teacher would invigilate and let alone mark exams from a centre known to have had covid 19 positive candidates, never ever unless such teachers would have gone mad and become careless with their health and safety.
We reiterate our view that in light of the inherent health and safety crisis in schools, let alone the contested welfare issue between government and teachers, the best way forward is to close schools in Zimbabwe. We are aware of the command education government and Ministry officials are addicted to but want to highlight that government must mellow down to a more constructive approach permeable to reason and facts rather than adopting an intransigent and irresponsible approach that would decimate teachers and pupils. It is better to preserve life than creating extenuating circumstances that would vandalise the education system. As teachers we have spoken for too long a time, the onus is now with students and parents to deflate vandals in the education system. The courts are open, use them. It is unfortunate that more often than note, those with ideas may have no power and those with power may have no ideas.
Dr Takavafira M. Zhou ( Ptuz President)