Teachers’ unions want June exams deferred

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Fidelis Munyoro

Chief Court Reporter

At least eight teachers’ unions have filed an urgent High Court application seeking to compel the Government to postpone the sitting of June examinations until all examination centres meet World Health Organisation (WHO) Covid-19 prescribed standards.

The public examinations are scheduled to start on June 30, but teachers’ unions say the teachers are not ready to go back to school until a well-informed analysis of the impact of Covid-19 has been done and all health and safety measures are in place.

In an urgent application filed last Friday, the teachers’ unions are seeking the High Court intervention to stop the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) from holding public examinations until sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) has been provided for both learners and teachers.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union (ARTUZ), Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTU), Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ), Zimbabwe Democratic Teachers Union (ZDTU), Zimbabwe National Education Union (ZINEU), Zimbabwe Teachers Association, (ZIMTA) and Zimbabwe National Teacher Union (ZINATU) are the applicants in the urgent chamber application.

The unions listed Zimsec, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, the Civil Service Commission, Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and Minister of Health and Child Care as respondents.

Zimta chief executive Dr Sifiso Ndlovu confirmed the teachers’ unions have approached the court on an urgent basis.

“It is true we have taken the issue of premature administration of June 2020 exams to the courts,” he said.

Dr Ndlovu said they were praying for the court to compel the State to fumigate all examination centres and meet WHO prescribed standards, provide facilities and personnel for thermal testing of teachers and learners and further support adequate sanitation like water, and take all necessary measures to reduce class sizes.

In addition, Dr Ndlovu said what the unions would like resolved by the employer is that Covid-19 should not be the sole burden of heads and teachers.

“Heads and teachers are traumatised by the ravaging Covid-19 and, therefore, need social and financial support, there should be no threat posed on their lives and families,” he said.

“Use of sticks, threats, blame games are uncalled for. Unity must prevail. Heads did not invent Covid-19 and, therefore, should not be threatened. Government (Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education) should fund this. Therefore, a comprehensive budget and provision should be availed to all schools.”

Dr Ndlovu said as school heads and teachers would be assuming the role of frontline workers, they should be entitled to the occupational hazard allowance or Covid-19 risk related allowance/benefits which are awarded to all frontline workers fighting the pandemic.

They also want examination supervision and invigilation to be paid for.

The lawsuit comes after the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on education recently recommended Government to consider health and safety concerns of the teachers and defer the national examinations.

The respondents are yet to respond to the application.