Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has weighed to a call for the government to offer risk allowances to teachers who will resume services during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The organisation says this after conducting an assessment of enjoyment of the Right to Education in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Teachers had earlier on raised the issue of risk allowances stating their role as of front line workers.
“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in liaison with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development should consider the allocation of risk allowances to educators and at the same time ensuring that schools have safe and secure working environments which enable schools to re-open during the pandemic,” the organisation says in a statement.
“Safety measures need to be guaranteed and met first before opening of schools. If Government encounters challenges in guaranteeing these measures, then opening of schools should be postponed until the Government obtains the necessary resources to guarantee the rights to health and life of learners, teachers, ancillary staff at schools as well as parents and guardians or postpone re-opening of schools until the pandemic is over.”
ZHDR got views from various stakeholders in the education system on the opening of schools; including students and administrators.
Learners interviewed by ZHDR were divided on the opening of schools, with some students championing the opening of education facilities while others were of the view that schools should remain closed.
“Upon being interviewed on their views on schools opening, some learners were of the view that schools should open as they were getting idle at home; some want to finalise their studies through writing of examinations. Another group of learners highlighted that they do not want to repeat classes next year so they supported the Government’s decision to re-open schools. The junior learners indicated that they wanted to go back to school to meet and play with their friends whom they last saw more than two months ago,” the organisation says.
“The majority of the students interviewed, however, were of the view that opening of schools should be put on hold, (just like during the liberation struggle) and open when it is safe to do so. They raised fears that concentration of students coming from different homes, would expose them to the pandemic. They also stated that due to limitation of resources within their schools, it would be difficult for them (schools) to guarantee students’ safety.”
ZHRC also acknowledged the fact that students have knowledge on COVID 19, the dangers and precautionary measures involved.
School administrators who interacted with the human rights organisation highlighted that they had adopted a ‘wait and see attitude’.
“They simply await circulars from the relevant ministry giving directions on how the re-opening of schools should proceed,” ZHDR says
“School authorities also indicated that the information dissemination process was only vertical, with information descending from high offices, without any consultations with the affected people on the ground such as heads of schools, teachers and students.”
“They felt that some of the proposed measures being advanced by Government were unrealistic and that wider consultations would have assisted with coming up with practical measures in the Education sector during this pandemic.”