BY LORRAINE MUROMO
PARENTS and teachers yesterday expressed dismay over government’s announcement that parents should provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for students in preparation for the reopening of schools.
This was said on Tuesday during post-Cabinet media briefing by Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
“As the nation prepares for the reopening of schools, parents and guardians are expected to complement government efforts to provide PPE and other essential requirements for learners,” she said.
But teachers and parents said government was the key stakeholder in the education sector and should ensure that all learners were provided with PPE.
Some parents said they were reeling in poverty due to the economic situation in the country.
“Fees have been increased and it is the responsibility of government to ensure that schools are fully-equipped with PPE and sanitisers before students return to class,” a parent, who preferred not to be named, said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said parents were struggling to pay school fees and would not afford the extra burden of PPE.
“To expect parents, who are struggling to raise exorbitant fees, to bear the burden of providing COVID-19 abatement to their children is not only ludicrous hallucination, but madness of the worst kind,” he said.
“It is government’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of pupils, teachers, and ancillary staff in schools. Government must, therefore, never renounce its responsibility.”
Zhou said the greatest challenge was that government was coming up with weak decisions.
“There is need for broad engagement and consensus. We reiterate our view that schools cannot open anytime soon,” Zhou said.
“We envisage that schools may open with effect from mid-September 2021 when high temperatures are expected to cause a decline in COVID-19 cases. Schools can then open for the last term of the year.
“Even then, it would be government’s responsibility to test 136 000 teachers, nearly six million pupils and ancillary staff before they gather in schools, let alone provide them with COVID-19 abatement equipment.”
Zimbabwean Teachers Association acting secretary-general Goodwell Taderera said: “Indeed, parents have to play a role, not only in the provision of PPE, but in the provision of everything that has to do with their children.
“As parents, we already complement by providing school fees, uniforms, monetary benefits like pocket money, and exercise books, but government has a key role to make sure that all the children in the country receive PPE.”
Taderera said child-headed families may not afford PPE.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said: “Government is mandated through section 75 of the Constitution to provide education to citizens. If parents are now being forced to fund the provision of PPE, among other basics, it means those that cannot afford are basically disenfranchised from their right to education.”