Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Teachers Association have declared that they are going to take ZIMSEC to court over its insistence to go ahead with the June exams in the wake of Covid-19 without put-ting necessary protective measures in place, H-Metro can reveal.
According to a memo supposedly written by the Permanent secretary Tumisang Thabela, to provincial education directors, school heads, examination class teachers, school health coordinators, and invigilators are supposed to undergo a Covid-19 training as schools prepare for re-opening.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said there is chaos on the way forward between the unions and the parliamentary portfolio committee on one hand and ZIMSEC together with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education on the other hand.
“We have the case of the right hand doing what the left hand is saying don’t, the parliamentary portfolio committee has recommended that the examination board should go ahead with exams when it is safe to do so, it is not safe, yet they have remained insistent so our union has resolved to take ZIMSEC to court and we will have our papers ready by the end of the week.
“We are the implementers and execution-ers in the education sectors, ZIMSEC hasn’t assured us of our safety yet. We do want to proceed to exams but our safety is of concern, are the PPEs, sanitizers and extra furniture ready for schools re-opening.
“We will only get back to work when they satisfy us, ZIMSEC’s job is to facilitate exams, we are the ones who deal with the students so when we say it’s unsafe, we know what we are referring to as we are the ones who know the setup of our classrooms and how social distancing is impossible.
“As for the training, we don’t know what they want to train us because so far, our concerns haven’t been addressed yet,” said Majongwe.
The ZIMSEC director Lazarus Nembaware revealed before the parliamentary portfolio committee that 6o 000 students are expected to sit for the June O’level exams while 5 700 are expected to sit for the A ‘level exams. Zimbabwe Teachers Association national president Richard Gundane also expressed concern over ZIMSEC’s intention to proceed with exams.
“ZIMSEC’s decision to proceed with exams is going to have serious implications, it’s a bad decision which must not be implemented, we made submissions to the ministry as well as to the parliament, in the wake of Covid-19, and the environment isn’t conducive for students to be travelling to exam centres and write exams.
“Mind you ZIMSEC wants to run exams while schools haven’t resumed, exams can’t run without schools being open, they need to take heed of the recommendations we have given them, with regard to the training that’s ongoing, we discourage our teachers from engaging in harmful environments that expose them to Covid-19, they should stay at home until its safe to get back to work.
“We are also considering taking legal action against ZIMSEC because forcing teachers to go back to work in this kind of environment amounts to coercion so we will take the matter to court and let the courts decide the way forward, and if we lose, we will go back for more dialogue because we aren’t risking our lives,” he said.
The chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said they are happy that the ministry has undertaken training of ministry personnel in preparation of the re-opening of schools.
Misihairabwi said this move by the ministry addresses one of her committee’s concerns, which was lack of preparedness. “We have seen the circular circulated by the ministry’s permanent secretary over the training of ministry personnel in preparation of the reopening of schools amidst Covid-19, as the committee we weren’t stopping them from operating per se, we were making recommendations and were concerned over the lack of preparedness, so we are happy that they are training their personnel.
“Training doesn’t mean they are opening immediately, they can train to open in September, or next year, as long as Covid-19 is still there, they need to get ready,” she said.
Misihairabwi however expressed great concern over ZIMSEC, which is determined to go ahead with exams, which have been scheduled for June 29.
“We have problems with ZIMSEC, we hear they are intending to proceed with exams, I’m not sure if they are trying to tell us to go to hell or they have not heeded parliament’s recommendations, from the engagements we have been having with them, we are not persuaded that they are ready for schools re-opening.
“If they think they are ready, they should come forward and convince us, they should tell us where the exams are going to be written, do the teachers and invigilators have PPEs, have they fumigated the classrooms and examination papers, do they have the masks and sanitizers for the learners to use when they get back to school,” queried Misihairabwi.
The chairperson also added that while parliament does not have arresting powers and they can’t stop ZIMSEC from going ahead with exams but the board will be held responsible for any infection of the learners and their teachers.
“At law, I can’t stop or arrest ZIMSEC, parliament doesn’t have that power, if they want to proceed with examinations they can do so but they will be remembered for exposing learners to Covid-19 and they should take responsibility for every child and teacher who is going to get infected by their rushed decision,” she said.
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