An historic High Court judgement which forced the Government of Zimbabwe to shelve the reopening of schools until measures are put in place to ensure the safety of pupils and staffers at the learning institutions from the Covid19 pandemic, has been celebrated by the country’s teachers.
Already opened for the Zimsec June 2020 public examinations, schools were scheduled to reopen for the Term 2 on June 28, with the Government dubiously claiming that it had ensured that all Covid19 mitigatory measures had been put in place to ensure teachers and students’ safety, amid an amplified outcry from various teacher unions in the country.
The President Emmerson Mnangagwa-led government had maintained that schools were going to reopen monthend after prematurely shutting doors for the first term on March 24, barely four days after the outbreak of the pandemic was announced in the troubled southern African nation.
Despite risking the intensification of the deadly pandemic which has so far cloaked 19 deaths and over 1 000 infections in a space of three months, the Harare administration had okayed the phased reopening of schools with first priority given to classes sitting for public examinations in October.
However, the country’s various teacher unions, notably the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) had legally appealed against the proposed June 28 reopening date, saying the decision to reopen was ‘premature’.
The High Court has since ruled in favour of the teachers arguing that the Government had not yet implemented measures ensuring the safety of both the students and their teachers in face of the novel coronavirus.
PTUZ President Dr Takavafira Zhou expressed elation over the court verdict, saying the decision was borne out of the resistance by the country’s teachers.
Dr Zhou also made a scathing attack on ‘some yellow unions’ which had given nod to the reopening of the country’s schools and implored on Harare to ‘never ignore professional advice’ in the future.
“Our Resistance has yielded Results,” an apparently elated Dr Zhou triumphantly announced soon after the verdict to postpone reopening was passed.
“No guarantee to our safety, health and welfare, no opening of schools. Shame to some yellow unions who were criticising us. Gvt must never in future ignore professional advice. To the cowards who were irrigating their pants ready to open schools on 28 July, shame on you,” he said.
Zhou added that the teachers were also going to press for the restoration of October 2018 salaries, when the least paid teacher was getting between US$350 and US$400 per month.
“Our demand for restoration of October 2018 salaries for teachers still remain and must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” said Dr Zhou.
Reasons which saw the teachers opposing the proposed June 28 reopening of schools included the high teacher-pupil ratio which was making it difficult for the implementation of social distancing in the classrooms.
The unavailability of running water, particularly in rural settlements was also another issue raised by the country’s teachers against the proposed schools reopening.