CHAOS characterised yesterday’s schools reopening as dozens of teachers failed to travel to their workstations citing incapacitation.
Teachers’ unions attributed the chaos to poor planning by government.
Government last week ordered schools to open in the middle of a level 4 lockdown, with the examination classes opening yesterday, while the rest of the classes are set to follow suit on September 6.
“Schools opened, but they remain closed practically,”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said.
“Even half of the schoolchildren failed to go to school. At least three-quarters of the teachers did not go, but there are others, especially in the urban areas, who want to conduct extra lessons that went to school.
“The government was shocked and sent circulars by 10am for headmasters to take down names of those who failed to attend classes.”
“This was ill-prepared. The teachers remain incapacitated and they need a rescue package. They cannot even send their children to school and cannot also travel to their workstations. How can a teacher pay for rent, school fees, food and also transport from the $21 000 they are paying? There are schools that cost $62 000 and how can the teachers pay for their children?”
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said:
“Reports are indicating that there was a good turnout in urban schools where teachers did not face huge transport problems.
“We had a number of rural school teachers who failed to travel because there was no transport at all. The long-distance buses that they were waiting for were not available and in some instances, were expensive and the teachers did not have the United States dollars they were being charged.”
It emerged that there was an extremely low turnout, particularly in rural schools, with only two out of 56 attending at Gaza Primary School in Chipinge district, while four out of 36 were present at Jersey Primary School in the same district, according to reports.
Only one teacher out of 11 was in attendance at Hotburg Primary School, with Mutema High School recording only one teacher in attendance.
In Bulawayo, most teachers failed to attend classes citing incapacitation, with PTUZ Bulawayo chairman Vusumuzi Mahlangu saying they failed to raise money to travel to their schools.
“Some of them are parents who also failed to raise money for their children’s school fees due to incapacitation, especially those who have children attending boarding schools as school authorities in those schools demanded fees upfront,” Mahlangu said.
Zimta acting secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said it was too early for them to give a comment.
“At a school where I teach, we have two Grade 7 teachers and I noticed that only one Grade 7 teacher was available. If this is a microcosm of what is happening throughout, it is possible that there are teachers who are not yet at schools as we speak,” he said.
The Education ministry yesterday conducted roadshows in the high-density suburbs of Bulawayo pleading with parents to send their children to school.
“No child should be left behind. No child should be at home when others are at school. No child will be sent away from school. Please ensure that your children report for class as schools have reopened,” the education officials announced using a hailer.
A police vehicle led the convoy of about six Education ministry vehicles.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro, however, claimed said the opening went on smoothly.
“The opening went on well and we have had no cases of COVID-19 so far. Teachers reported for duty, with over 50% available, but remember, it’s only examination classes, so we are going to be checking as the week progresses and we get to the next phase of opening,” he said.