Teachers’ unions under the Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union (FOZEU) call upon the government to urgently engage them in order to collectively map an acceptable roadmap for the successful opening of schools in 2021.
It is an undeniable and unquestionable fact that education suffered a serious and deadly blow due to the Covid-19-induced lockdown and subsequent closure of schools rendering learning impossible.
Prior to this, the education sector was already under serious distress due to a number of factors, such as lack of social dialogue, incapacitation of teachers and underfunding.
It is, therefore, imperative to collectively plan for opening of schools as a matter of urgency.
Several corrective measures need to be rectified before schools can be safe zones for learning.
The government should address the incapacitation teachers have been facing which has eroded their livelihoods, security and dignity.
The salaries that the teaching profession has been subjected to for the past two decades are pitiful and cannot improve the lives of teachers and general upkeep of their families.
FOZEU is unflinching in its demand for the restoration of teachers’ salaries to US$520 or the equivalent interbank rate.
There is also urgent need for government to address the salary discrepancies between civil servants and other government employees, where teachers have been relegated to the periphery of the salary cycle.
A case in point is how junior soldiers are now earning $27 000 whereas teachers earn as little as $14 000 per month, which is an absurd and shocking scenario.
Teachers are civil servants, not civil slaves.
The physical opening of schools will require cooperation between all stakeholders within the education ecosystem, namely, government, teachers, learners and parents.
This cooperation is necessary in order to create a conducive and safe environment for learning and teaching to take place.
Schools should develop a Covid-19 response plan and compliant to government set standard operating procedures that should be informed by World Health Organisation safety regulations with regard to Covid-19.
The government should with urgency initiate a broad-based plan to monitor the progress being made in schools in providing a safe learning environment.
Classes and hostels must be decongested and all buildings fumigated.
A regards vaccination, the government should prioritise teachers among essential services and vaccinate them before opening of schools.
Teachers should be vaccinated on a willing basis and every teacher should keep a Covid-19 scorecard to ensure the smooth flow of learning and curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
All school staff and students should be tested first before they are admitted into the school environment.
The education sector is one of the key pillars of our society and every society globally and its welfare should be the top priority of a responsible governing authority.
Covid-19 has disturbed every element of society with education suffering the most, a sentiment echoed worldwide.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has described education as the sector that has suffered the most due to the global Covid-19-
induced lockdowns and the sooner it is resurrected the better, but under a safe and conducive environment.
Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union