TEACHER unions yesterday claimed that about 50 headmasters and several teachers tested positive to COVID-19 when schools reopened on Monday for examination classes.
Zimbabwe went on a strict lockdown on Tuesday to control the spread of COVID-19, but schools reopened to examination classes.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said over 50 school heads across the country were infected while the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu also confirmed reports of the virus hitting school heads, learners and teachers.
The unions blamed the government for failure to put in place adequate measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“As of yesterday, more than 50 school heads across the country tested positive to COVID-19, while several other teachers and pupils are vulnerable. The ministry has not come up with a robust approach to COVID-19, thereby leaving teachers and pupils vulnerable,” Zhou said.
“Indeed, 2020 must best be remembered as a wasted year in terms of starvation wages educators received and the failure to prioritise the health and safety of teachers and pupils. But if anything, 2021 may be worse.”
He added that given the crisis, it was advisable that teachers stay at home in “prioritisation of the health and safety of teachers and pupils”.
“We, hereby, advise teachers to stay at home and save their lives. There is no life after death and those that require the services of teachers must also invest in their welfare, health and safety. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
Ndlovu confirmed the soaring cases of teachers testing positive for COVID-19, saying it was ill-advised to open schools when the country was recording a surge in new infections.
“Schools are likely to be clusters of spreaders in the wake of what we are witnessing. We have a problem given that testing is inadequate and expensive for educators and learners,” he said.
Primary and Secondary Education deputy minister Edgar Moyo said he was yet to get the report and referred questions to the ministry’s spokesperson Taungana Ndoro whose mobile phone was not available.
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said she was yet to receive the report and figures on affected teachers, adding that it was likely schools were affected by the current surge.
“The current surge does not discriminate and it may be true that if there is a surge, teachers are also bound to be affected,” she said.
The committee report last year had recommended closing of schools and had hoped the government would be able to deal with smaller numbers of those writing examinations.