BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/ VANESSA GUZHA
TEACHERS’ representatives have called on government to urgently release funds and capacitate schools to provide digital learning amid a surge in COVID -19 infections and deaths.
Government on Tuesday deferred reopening of schools for the second term by two weeks following a surge in COVID-19 cases. Schools were closed in June for the first term.
Teachers’ representatives said although it was prudent for schools to remain shut, government should implement a more sustainable education system to enhance learning online.
They said it was uncertain whether schools would reopen after two weeks since infections were still on the rise.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said schools were incapacitated to reopen after two weeks and adhere to COVID-19 protocols.
“The postponement of reopening of schools alone is not a panacea to the crisis facing our education sector,” Masaraure said.
“Come the end of two weeks, our schools will still not be able to adhere to standard operating procedures to ensure they are safe for both the learner and the teacher.
“Government should use this two-week window to address this fundamental issue of safety of learners and teachers, but most importantly the government should also use this window to engage with labour.
“The teachers have declared that they are incapacitated, they are demanding their salaries to be restored to the value of 2018.”
Zimbabwe Teachers Association president Sifiso Ndlovu said government should address the challenges in the education sector and ensure a safe learning environment during the time schools are closed.
“What we are dealing with now is an emergency and crisis. So the thinking behind the closure is a desperate move to try and control the problem, but it does not help education,” Ndlovu said.
“Education cannot wait any longer because as we postpone, we are actually killing the future human resource base. It is now important that vaccination has been extended to everyone which is vital for the education sector.
“We are encouraging education stakeholders to work towards creating safe zones for education to resume. Education should not stand still as we are seeking solutions to end the pandemic.”
Former Education minister David Coltart said the country was on the verge of losing a whole generation of learners who are the future working class.
“Government is currently under a difficult situation and it was very necessary for schools to remain closed. But schools should not be closed virtually,” Coltart said.
“Prolonged postponement of access to education has devastating effects to the education sector and it is emanating from lack of preparedness by government.
“The education sector had been seriously under-funded, hence its inability to sustain learning during the pandemic like what private and some mission schools are doing.”
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said government was encouraging and supporting e-learning at incapacitated schools.
“We have partnered with various ministries which include the Information Communication Technologies and Energy, to improve infrastructure in such areas where access to learning is difficult,” Ndoro said.
“We recently launched an online platform where we are also providing e-learning resources accessible to every learner. Where learners do not have access to the online platform, we are sending hard copies of the learning material,” he said.