Zimbabwe

‘UZ defies lockdown’

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

LECTURERS and staff at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) have accused authorities of defying lockdown measures by ordering them to report for duty or sign up official leave days.

Lectures who spoke to NewsDay Weekender said they were conducting online lessons with students, but they were being ordered to report to campus.

This, according to the lecturers, ran contrary to the current set down restrictions and regulations of the recently imposed COVID-19 lockdown which encouraged limited number of employees at workplaces.

According to a circular written by UZ registrar Noah Ariel Mutongoreni directed to deans and heads of departments, all non-essential workers were ordered to take leave from work during the lockdown, but workers argue it is an unfair labour practise as they would be losing their benefits.

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“Pursuant to the need to efficiently and effectively manage the University of Zimbabwe leave liability, you are being advised to encourage and let your non-core staff take leave effective January 4 2021,” Matongoreni said in his circular.

“All heads of departments should therefore ensure that leave days are managed well without compromising essential service areas and the preparations and conduct of examinations.”

Examinations which are scheduled on January 20 will also continue as planned according to a memo seen by NewsDay Weekender. The university has also opened a portal for students to apply for accommodation on campus.

But the lecturers argue that the university was using the recently imposed lockdown for its own benefit not for the health safety of its employees since no precautionary measures being put in place in preparation for the examinations.

“The university cannot be ordering its employees to take leave days when they have no plans to do so. We are already working online, teaching students and supervising projects. Going on campus risks us contracting the virus.  If the management   orders us to take leave, they will be depriving us of our monetary benefits which we are entitled to upon retirement,” said one lecturer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

UZ vice-chancellor Paul Mapfumpo disputed the allegations saying the university does not force staff to go on leave, but the encouragement for them to take their leave days coincided with the announcement of the lockdown

“On the issue of examinations, the university already has a position which will be announced by the registrar at the right time,” he said.

The university students’ representative council vice-president Wilbert Muzarawetu said the institution should suspend writing of the examinations to contain the spread of the virus.

“Students will be travelling from different parts of the country and there are no protective mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that students who are infected will not get in contact with others and spread the disease. If exams are to continue, the university will become one serious COVID-19 hotspot in the country. ,” he said.

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