BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA/ARNOLD FANDISO/VANESSA GUZHA
THE Primary and Secondary Education ministry yesterday said government was expecting a 100% teacher turnout on March 15 as the country prepares to open schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro told NewsDay that teachers should all report for work in line with the stipulated opening days.
“Government is expecting a 100% upward trajectory of teachers returning to work on March 15. Schools have already been provided with proper personal protective equipment for students and teachers to use as the 2021 learning calendar commences,” Ndoro said.
Ndoro’s statement came at a time teachers’ unions are divided over whether their members would report for duty when schools open next week.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe have said their members will not report for work until government has bowed to their salary demands.
But Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu yesterday said teachers should not mix salary issues with issues to do with COVID-19 safety at schools.
“We are saying let us get support from every corner to ensure that the opening of schools is a success and we should not mix COVID-19 issues with the perennial issue of teachers’ welfare and salaries because the closure of schools was due to COVID-19 challenges,” he
“The issue of salaries is a permanent feature which can never be exhausted even in developed countries, and right now, the issue at hand is about addressing the safety of teachers and students when schools open during COVID-19.”
Continued Ndlovu: “I do not think that the other unions will get public support by continuing to advance the issue of salaries at the expense of the learners. I would encourage my colleagues to desist from marrying the issue of COVID-19 with the issue of salaries. Our position is clear, that we should ensure that students get back to school in a safe environment.”
Primary and Secondary Education secretary Tumisang Thabela also told a joint virtual meeting by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, and the Information Communication Technology Committee that government was in the process of upgrading radio and television transmission to areas without connectivity in preparation for schools reopening.
“Plans are in place to provide power in schools through the Rural Electrification (Agency), upgrade and provision of radio and television transmission. We plan to provide schools with internet connectivity through the ICT ministry and to provide intranet digital learning platforms and ICT mobile laboratories,” Thabela said.
She said her ministry was planning to provide learners with ICT devices at every school as well as capacitate teachers to use ICT technologies.
Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe director-general Gift Machengete said network operators were in the process of engaging contractors to construct more base stations.
“In 2021, there are plans to roll out four new such sites and relocate six other towers to new locations,” he said, adding that the deployment of these base stations would allow mobile operators to offer their services in new areas, which would allow better internet access in the new communities.