BY NHAU MANGIRAZI
THE country’s examination body, the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) last week allegedly paid some “O” Level examination invigilators with plates of sadza instead of cash, which has resulted in some teachers snubbing invigilating duties and withdrawing their services.
“O” Level examinations are still on-going. Last year, the examinations were also mired in controversy after the examinations body set the “O” Level Geography paper with a question on maps, but without the map.
The Zimsec “O” level examinations have spilled into this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns imposed to contain the virus.
Teachers based in Karoi downed tools last week and did not report for work to invigilate examinations citing fear of exposure to COVID-19.
At Chikange High School, some examination invigilators, who spoke to NewsDay alleged that as a result, some primary schoolteachers had to be roped in to invigilate the “O” Level examinations.
However, it is alleged that they were offered a plate of sadza as payment for the job.
The school has boarding facilities and the food that was offered to the teachers for invigilating was part of that fed to boarders.
‘‘The team of invigilators that were roped in from primary schools was offered a plate of sadza as payment for the task of invigilating the ‘O’ Level examinations. Zimsec has not bothered to pay us for invigilating duties,” one teacher, who preferred not to be named, said.
Other teachers said they were being harassed by the police, who demanded COVID-19 clearance letters to show that they were part of essential service providers, as they travelled to invigilate examinations.
“While we are not being paid for our invigilating services and are incapacitated, we are also being exposed to COVID-19 and are being tormented by law enforcement agents that are demanding letters to allow us to proceed to schools. We do not have those letters. We have now decided to boycott going to schools to invigilate examinations,” another teacher from Karoi High School said.
Zimsec public relations manager Nicolette Dhlamini said she was not at liberty to comment on the issue.
In a written response to NewsDay, Dhlamini said: ‘‘Invigilators are under the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Kindly seek clarity from them.’’
Education permanent secretary Tumisang Thabela could not be reached for comment yesterday as her mobile phone was not reachable.
But Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe was livid over the issue.
Majongwe said the ill-treatment of teachers by Zimsec and schools was “downgrading” of teachers’ roles.
He said the teachers’ decision to refuse to continue invigilating was justified.
Majongwe added that the contracts teachers had with their employer did not include Zimsec services.
‘‘Our stance over the abuse of teachers by Zimsec is clear — their contracts do not include Zimsec duties at all. Zimsec, like any other parastatal, cannot impose their will on teachers. When teachers are invited by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to be election officers or the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) to do census duties, they are paid for their services separately for those activities on behalf of the parastatals.
“In this particular case, Zimsec decided to pay everyone else, but not the teachers. They have decided to pay those who set examinations, markers and even drivers who transport the papers from Harare to Chitungwiza. Furthermore, they pay the police who offer security supervision on these examinations. The action denigrates the teaching profession. Teachers spend three hours invigilating examinations and yet they are not paid a single cent. This selective application and ignorance is what we are standing up against,’’ Majongwe said.
He said the educators in Karoi and other areas had legitimate reasons not to offer “community service” to Zimsec as they should be respected by the examinations body.
‘‘These teachers that have refused to invigilate are exercising their rights as headmasters who superintend over the exams are paid while teachers are not paid,’’ the PTUZ secretary-general said.
He said the invigilating teachers should also get COVID-19 allowances, adding that several workers in the education sector had been infected by the pandemic.
“As I am speaking right now, we have at least 40 teachers that are currently hospitalised after they were infected with COVID-19. Their lives are at risk. They were on the frontline doing their duties, yet no one cares about their well-being. This is what we are fighting against. There is no financial reprieve for their services and the affected teachers don’t know who to consult over these shortcomings,” Majongwe said.