Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
TEACHERS and other school support staff are facing a nightmare to get to their respective stations ahead of full schools opening tomorrow after it emerged that inter-city buses are still banned except for pupils only.
Further, the teachers and the staff are also complaining that in the absence of the buses they have been forced to opt for unscrupulous private operators who are demanding exorbitant fares in foreign currency which they cannot afford since they are paid in local currency.
Sunday News yesterday discovered that some pirate taxis were yesterday charging double fares for most distances. After the reopening of the three examination classes (Upper Six, Form Four and Grade Seven) last week, schools are expected to welcome back the rest of learners tomorrow.
Last week, some teachers said they tried to use buses which were availed for pupils but were made to disembark at roadblocks after police indicated that they were only allowing pupils to be ferried by their school buses. Most schools in rural areas do not have school buses and teachers will be coming from different areas, making the arrangement a nightmare.
The development comes as police yesterday reiterated that inter-city travel was still banned and they will be out in full force to ensure only buses carrying pupils will be allowed.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police reiterates that under the current Level IV Covid-19 regulations, inter-city movements are still prohibited.
“Only commercial cargo and essential services are allowed. Therefore, inter-city travelling by bus operators remains banned unless such operators are doing so to transport children as stated by the Government of Zimbabwe. “Police at all check points will ensure safety and ease of passage for buses carrying learners back to school without any delay. Bus operators who take advantage of the Government’s reprieve only to abuse it by transporting ordinary passengers and not school children will risk being arrested and their buses impounded,” national police spokesman Assistant
Commissioner Paul Nyathi said in a statement.
Zimbabwe Teachers Union (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu told Sunday News yesterday that teachers had been struggling to get transport over the week as most operators were refusing to accept payment in local currency.
“From what we have heard today from our members, there is no transport and those that are transporting people are asking for foreign currency. The problem is that teachers have had to run around and change money from the streets.
This is something that the Ministry of Finance and Development should look into because we believe people should accept local currency, whether it comes as EcoCash or as physical money.
“Now it seems that teachers have committed a crime for having local currency. They are not saying that they don’t want to go to work, they are saying they are being hindered by resources. It is better for those that work within Bulawayo because the transporters accept local currency but those in the rural areas have had to rely on getting lifts from well-wishers,” he said.
Dr Ndlovu said that teachers had sent an appeal to Government with the hope of getting assistance on time for the opening of schools.
“Those in Matabeleland have been saying that they are trying to make plans with their directors so that they can consult Government to provide transport for them. As of today, there had been no reply as yet and the problem is that they are already supposed to be returning to work.
“Efforts are still being made to ensure that this happens but as of now, teachers are running out of time. Our wish was that the Government finds a way of helping those teachers that cannot reach their work stations by providing public transport buses,” he said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Mr Takavafira Zhou said there had been no communication from authorities on how teachers were supposed to return to work.
“There is virtually no communication pertaining to this important aspect that must be addressed if schools are to successfully open. As PTUZ we appealed to Government to pay a rescue package that would enable teachers to pay fees for their own children, enable them to travel to their respective stations and sustain them until pay day but this has not been addressed,” he said.
However, Director of Information and Advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Mr Taungana Ndoro said while the ministry was ready for the reopening of schools, the provision of transport did not fall under its purview.
“Our mandate as the Ministry is to provide wholesome education to learners. Transport provision does not fall under our purview. Perhaps the Ministry of Transport or Zupco would be better placed to comment on that. As the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, we are ready to provide quality and wholesome education to learners as from Monday,” he said.