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Schools reopen amid fresh COVID-19 fears

TEACHERS yesterday remained defiant, vowing not to return to work before their salary demands were met as they also raised the red flag over rising COVID-19 cases in the country. BY MOSES MATENGA Government has insisted on reopening schools for the remaining classes — Early Childhood Development to Grade 5, as well as Forms One and Two — while keeping a tight lid on by-elections and other public gatherings, with a possibility of imposing another lockdown. Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said it was scary that government had ordered schools to operate 100% at a time the country was recording a surge in COVID-19 cases, including five that were confirmed at a primary school in Masvingo and another one in Bulawayo. “We are not going to work, but what must be made clear is that teachers are not absent. They have been deliberately incapacitated by the employer,” Zhou said. He said COVID-19 cases were rising in schools, adding that the situation was likely to get out of hand as most schools had inadequate personal protective equipment. “I am sure you are aware now that there are several schools where students have tested positive for COVID-19 like Rujeko Primary School and a lot of other schools elsewhere. The issue of health and safety of teachers is a crucial one and so we want the government to address these issues before teachers can go back to work,” Zhou said. “We have maintained that teachers and pupils must be tested before they go back to school and now with the coming in of infants, you can imagine what will be happening.” A snap survey by NewsDay in Harare showed that pupils were boarding school buses without following COVID-19 protocols and without their hands being sanitised. Some schools, particularly in Harare, reportedly advised pupils to stay home citing COVID-19 risks and absence of teachers. But Agnes Mahomwa, the chief co-ordinator for the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, yesterday said government had made risk assessments and concluded that pupils were better off in school than at home. “As we have been implementing our response, we were continuously monitoring to make sure that guidelines and protocols are in place. We have also looked at researches and assessments done elsewhere, and Unicef has helped us in that area in balancing the act to say what more damage can we do by not allowing learners to go back to school versus the risk of COVID-19, and it has been very clear that you can actually do more damage when you don’t allow the learners to go back to school,” she said. “But what we have to make sure is that when they go back to school, you guard and make sure all the guidelines and processes are being adhered to,” she said. She, however, could not be drawn to explain how the guidelines and protocols would be enforced in the absence of teachers. Labour minister Paul Mavima admitted in Senate last week that the majority of teachers were not reporting for duty, adding that government had no capacity to pay t

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