Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT has said teachers must report for duty today as schools open for the first term while it addresses their salary grievances.
Parents and guardians yesterday made a plea to the educators to resume their teaching duties as learners have already lost a lot of time.
Government has started recruiting 10 000 teachers as it seeks to revise the teacher-pupil ratio from Grade One to Grade Seven, as well as fill vacant posts.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education requires at least 40 000 more teachers to address the critical manpower deficit in the education sector, with science subjects and early childhood development classes being the worst affected in terms of staff complement.
It was a busy day for most pupils learning in boarding schools as they left for their various learning institutions yesterday morning.
Parents and guardians also made the last-minute rush to buy stationery used by their children in school and some book shops that normally do not open on Sundays were open.
Schools were supposed to open on January 11 but a spike in Covid-19 cases as a result of the Omicron variant saw Government deferring the opening of schools.
Form One pupils are expected to join the rest of the learners on Monday next week as they will use this week to secure secondary school places following the release of 2021 Grade Seven results last Friday.
Even though teachers’ unions declared incapacitation last Friday, Government said they must report for duty.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima yesterday said Government understands teachers’ concerns but they should allow salary negotiations to be concluded while they are at work.
“What we want the teachers to understand is that there is commitment to solving those issues but can only be solved through a negotiation process with the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) leading.
So, we are appealing to the teachers to go back to school, their issues will be addressed.
We have a negotiation platform which they all understand.
That should be used,” said Prof Mavima.
He said NJNC is expected to meet soon as the Government team is still consulting relevant stakeholders.
To show Government’s commitment to paying civil servants a living wage, Government is paying Covid-19 allowances in foreign currency and it paid their 2021 bonuses in US dollars.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Evelyn Ndlovu said all has been set ahead of today’s schools opening.
“We have managed to procure and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to schools.
What we are doing at the moment is that we are pushing for the release of more funds.
The Permanent Secretary (Mrs Tumisang Thabela) is pushing for the release of more funds so that schools do not run out of the protective clothing,” said Dr Ndlovu.
Parents and guardians who were seeing off their children going to boarding schools at the Large City Hall car park said they were hoping the term would not be disrupted by anything.
Some schools were not allowing pupils who had not paid school fees to board school buses.
Ms Thembi Ncube whose child learns at JZ Moyo High in Gwanda said parents had made sacrifices to ensure their children go back to school hence they do not expect any learning disruptions.
“We hope there will not be any teachers’ strikes. As parents we are struggling to raise fees especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, we expect that as schools open there will be no disruptions.
Already our children have lost a lot of time due to prolonged closure of schools.
So, we hope teachers will be considerate as they are parents as well,” said Ms Ncube.
Another parent with a child at the same school, Ms Matilda Chips said Covid-19 induced disruptions will be costly for slow learners as they might struggle to cope.
She said schools should come up with bridging programmes.
“The holiday was a bit longer and it allowed us to prepare better for schools opening.
We have managed to pay fees and buy all the necessary things.
What we anticipate is that there should not be any disruptions.
We expect that teaching will take place.
But we are concerned that teachers are declaring that they are incapacitated and the impact would be felt by our children if they do not report for duty,” she said.
Mr Vusumuzi Khumalo, a parent with a child at Thekwane High School said his biggest worry were day scholars, who do not attend classes every day due to the ministry’s decongestion policy.
“We prepared on time, we have paid fees and we have done well to prepare the children to go to school.
However, my concern is for day school learners who were not attending lessons on a daily basis as part of the education policy’s decongestion policy.
We hope this year it will be different, particularly for day scholars so that pupils can attend lessons on a daily basis. We had instances where some pupils were attending classes only twice a week last term,” said Mr Khumalo.
A Form Six pupil at JZ Moyo High School, Sibusiso Mhlanga, said she was excited that schools were reopening as they have a lot of catching up to do.
She said while they were conducting online lessons, the experience was not similar to being in class.
“We want to compensate for the time lost.
We also want to start on working on our Continuous Assessment Learning Activity so that by the end of the year we have something tangible.
At home we tried to conduct online lessons but it has not been that effective,” she said.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association president Mr Richard Gundane said: “Government must pay the teachers so that they have resources to use to go to work.
What is stopping them from going to work is that they have no money.
What should come first is paying the teachers, enabling them acceptable salaries which should be in US dollars.
This should enable them to go to work.” — nqotshili
Article Source: The Chronicle