By Nancy Samuriwo
MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa wants Government to open schools immediately saying that the Covid-19 pandemic had receded.
The opposition leader however said the schools should be re-opened under what he called “precautionary measures” against the pandemic which has so far killed 5 294 Zimbabweans since 23 March 2020 when TV personality Zororo Makamba became the first official victim.
In a statement on social media, Chamiss said schools must be re-opened and teachers’ salaries adjusted back to the pre-2018 levels.
“Restore teachers’ salaries to pre October 2018 levels of at least USD 540. Improve teachers’ status and the conditions of service,” said Chamisa ins his to-do list for Government.
“Regularize the negotiating platforms. Open schools under Covid-19 precautionary measures.”
The re-opening of schools will set the stage for a confrontation between Government and teachers unions, who are demanding a salary raise.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) tabled fresh salary demands pushing for a wage increase of US$671 up from the US$540 they demanded last year.
In its position paper, the association cited that the USD $540 pre-October 2018 salary paid to civil servants has been eroded by inflation and therefore has become an irrelevant reference point.
The teacher representative association noted that developments in the economy have raised legitimate expectations that the 2022 review will exceed the 2021 award and improve civil servants earnings and educators in particular.
“We recognise and acknowledge the payment of 2021 bonus in USD. The payment was an anecdote to continued USD bonus in 2022 and a precursor to a blended salary policy, which take into effect USD and ZWL as trading currencies in Zimbabwe,” the paper read.
Other teacher representative organizations such as the Amalgamated Rural Teacher’s Union (ARTUZ) and the Progressive Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) have been pushing for improved salaries and working conditions as well.
Government has been reluctant to raise the salaries, citing poor financial standing. It also insists that schools re-opening will be guided by “science” on the prevailing Covid-19 situation.
As at 23 January 2022, Zimbabwe had 228 254 confirmed cases, including 213 299 recoveries and 5 294 deaths.
On Sunday, 75 news cases and 2 deaths were recorded countrywide as cases decline after a spike towards the December festive season.
Chamisa says that is enough reason to open schools which have been shut since December 17.
The schools were supposed to reopen on 10 January, but acting President Constantino Chiwenga issued a further three-week hold on the re-opening of schools citing Covid-19.
If Government does not review Chiwenga’s decree, schools still have at least two more weeks before they reopen. Announcing his order, Chiwenga said: “Schools be given at least one week after the next two-weeks lockdown extension, to put preventive public health measures in place before the commencement of the general school calendar depending on the prevailing Covid-19 situation at that time.
“Teachers and students will be required to wear face masks while in class, all eligible teachers and students are encouraged to be vaccinated for Covid-19 before the opening of schools.
“Enforcement officers are encouraged to conduct regular assessments of compliance in learning institutions, at least on a weekly basis.
“The provincial task-force teams are exhorted to strengthen their efforts of mobilizing all those eligible to get vaccinated.”
To date, a total of 4 242 371 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19.