Saturday, 3 October 2020

TEACHERS CLAIMING INCAPACITATION WILL BE REPLACED, SAYS MINISTER

GOVERNMENT will do everything in its power to prepare candidates for the coming examinations including replacing teachers not reporting for duty claiming they are incapacitated, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Teachers declared incapacitation as public schools opened for examinations classes on Monday and most of them did not report to their work stations.

The Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) examinations for Grade Seven, Form Four and Form Six classes start on December 1 and are expected to spill over to January 26 2021.

The reopening of schools has stirred a lot of debate as some stakeholders in the education sector argued that learning institutions were not prepared to reopen while others said it was time to reopen.

The proponents for the reopening of schools have argued that children’s education cannot wait even during the Covid-19 era.

In a ministerial statement presented in the National Assembly on Thursday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema, said in Zimbabwe just like in many other countries, there has not been a consensus on schools reopening in view of the Covid-19 threat.

The Minister said pupils stand to lose more if schools remain closed as has already been observed that some have regressed in their studies when schools reopened on Monday.

He said schools reopening have been guided by expert advice and the situation on the ground.

Minister Mathema said in case Covid-19 cases spike again, Government will be forced to close schools again as the health of teachers and learners remains a top priority.

The Minister said he was alive to the challenges affecting the education sector, including the incapacitation declaration resulting in low turnout of teachers on the opening day on Monday.

He said while his Ministry is not responsible for looking into the welfare of civil servants, he was aware that the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare was working to address issues related to their conditions of service.

Minister Mathema urged teachers to return to school as negotiations are ongoing. Already Government has offered a 40 percent cushioning allowances to civil servants.

“The situation for the reopening of schools on Monday 28th September 2020, was characterised by a high turnout for learners and a low turnout for teachers. The situation improved slightly on the second day and we are hoping that teachers will return to work while any grievances that they may have get addressed through the right channels. We understand some teachers have cited incapacitation but a teacher cannot have received his or her salary and be unable to report to work even for the first day,” said Minister Mathema.

“Where will be the rationale for Government to continue paying an employee who is giving no service at all? I would like to urge teachers to reflect and ensure that we find each other. Currently, there are over 20 000 qualified teachers who are looking for work and hundreds of thousands of learners who are looking for teachers. Government may have no alternative other than to ensure that the learners are supported with teachers so that they are ready for an examination whose dates have now been determined, that is the first of December 2020 to the 26th of January 2021.”

He said replacing striking personnel is the norm in every sector and as administrators in the education sector they have to put the pupils’ interests first.

“As the Minister responsible for Primary and Secondary Education, I have to make sure that I find ways and means that learners go to school. This is not the norm only in the education sector, the learners have to go to school. I have to find ways and means of inviting other people to come and teach learners in school,” he said.

The Minister said Covid-19 caught the education sector unprepared to provide alternative ways of education such as radio and television lessons, resulting in some learners being excluded from them.

Minister Mathema said to address challenges where some pupils could not access radio lessons, extra lessons will be held to ensure no child is disadvantaged in accessing quality education.

He said provision of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) was critical to enable schools to effectively deliver education during the Covid-19 pandemic. Minister Mathema said Government is providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to 8 500 from the total of 9 625 schools countrywide from the $600 million allocated by Government.

Only private and trust schools do not get PPE from Government, he said.  

“On the issue of schools without water, we will do everything we can. As I stand in front of the august House, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and District Development Fund (DDF) are going out. We have 800 schools all over the country that need boreholes. The Minister of Agriculture (Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Dr Anxious Masuka) and the Minister of Local Government (and Public Works July Moyo) are out there with Zinwa and DDF. I have given the whole list of those schools that did not have water at all. So we are working on that one as a collective effort in the Government,” said Minister Mathema. 

Provision of water is critical in fighting Covid-19 as there is a need for constant washing of hands. Chronicle

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