Nqobile Tshili/ Leonard Ncube, Chronicle Reporters
TEACHERS have been urged to report for duty as schools opened under Phase Three which has paved the way for lessons for everyone in primary and secondary school to resume being conducted in the classroom.
Early Childhood Development (ECD) A to Grade Five pupils joined the Grade Six and Seven classes in primary schools while Form One and Two joined their seniors who had opened in September and last month.
However, teachers did not report for duty in some schools. Some parents had to withdraw their children when they observed no learning related activities happening at the institutions.
Pupils were crowded outside schools waiting for school authorities to attend to them in Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Hwange among other parts of country. Only school heads and a few support staff were present in some schools.
Pupils told Chronicle news crews that they were told that they would be updated via official social media platforms to return to school once teachers are available.
They said only examination classes, especially those doing science subjects, were told to remain in school to study.
Some learners could be seen playing in the school yards as others returned home.
The pupils were not following the Standard Operating Procedures which stipulate that they maintain social distancing, wear face masks among other Covid-19 prevention measures.
Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Edgar Moyo urged teachers to report for duty saying Government was still in talks with their unions to attend to their concerns.
Teachers have declared incapacitation and some have not reported for duty since Government introduced the first phase of schools opening in September. This has seen Government warning teachers that it will withdraw their salaries if they do not report for duty.
Deputy Minister Moyo said Government has procured personal protective equipment for schools to protect learners and teachers from Covid-19. “We have dealt with personal protective equipment, time tables for candidates who are writing examinations. Our expectation is that both pupils and teachers go to school. We encourage teachers to perform their duties while their union leaders are engaging Government over their issues of concern,” said Deputy Minister Moyo.
He said parents and guardians should also make sure that children stay in school as learning institutions are safer zones for learners.
“We are encouraging parents to send their children to school and no head is expected to chase away the learners.
Pupils have a right to access to education. There are serious consequences for children and the country if our children do not go to school. There are lots of hazards that may befall them while at home such as child abuse; they may start new habits which may not be good for them while others might be involved in child labour. So, when they are out of schools, they are likely to experience serious hazards yet the school provides safe zones,” he said.
Deputy Minister Moyo said it remains illegal for schools to demand teacher incentives from parents and guardians.
The trend has become rampant in some schools to keep teachers in classes as most of them have downed their tools.
He said payment of teachers’ salaries remains the Government’s responsibility.
“That is illegal (to demand incentives from parents). There is a circular that directs schools not to charge parents extra monies to pay teachers. It is Government’s responsibility to demand fees payment. Demanding incentives creates new problems because affluent parents would pay the teachers but the less affluent cannot pay teachers which results in their children not accessing education. We want equity in terms of accessing education where education is affordable to all without discrimination. Because when schools demand US dollar incentives that creates a form of discrimination especially when some of the parents cannot afford to pay the forex. What will happen to their children?” he said.
Primary and Secondary Education Ministry communications and advocacy manager Mr Taungana Ndoro said provincial and district heads were assessing the situation on the ground.
“Information is being collected through our Provincial Education Directors (PEDs) and district schools’ inspectors.
They would send information to our Command Centre for us to then analyse and see how the situation has been. We are confident that by the end of the day we would have collected all the information and tomorrow (today) we will be able to give an analysis of what really transpired today (yesterday),” said Mr Ndoro.
Parents urged Government to break the impasse which has seen teachers not reporting for duty.
“Our children have suffered due to this long time that they have spent at home. It was our hope that they were going to return to school without any challenges. Schools have opened but there are no teachers. Who would supervise the children to observe Covid-19 regulations when teachers are not there? We strongly appeal to Government to address the issues in the education sector. Our children are the ones who are suffering most under these circumstances,” said a parent with a child at Magwegwe Primary School in Bulawayo.
A parent with a child at Sizane High School in the city said Government should allow parents to pay incentives to teachers as opposed to having children going to school every day but not learning.
“We are losing a lot of money sending the children to school. At the moment we need our children to learn and it’s high time Government allows parents to pay incentives to teachers. Teachers might be forced to go to work but it would be difficult to force them to effectively teach our children yet we need our children to catch up as they have lost a lot of time due to Covid-19,” said the parent. — @nqotshili/ [email protected]