CHAOS characterised the opening day of the first term yesterday as schoolchildren at different learning institutions in the country were sent back home after teachers and school heads failed to report for duty citing incapacitation.
School heads yesterday joined teachers in declaring incapacitation in a bid to press for United States dollar salaries to cushion them from the rising cost of living.
A survey carried out by NewsDay in several parts of the country showed that most teachers did not report for duty.
Primary and Secondary Education secretary Tumisang Thabela, however, claimed that the majority of teachers and pupils had turned out.
“Government is pleased to note that schools have opened, that the majority of teachers reported for duty and that the majority of schoolchildren were able to attend classes,” she said in a statement.
“In instances where students and pupils were unable to attend, government awaits definitive information on the reasons, so as to respond appropriately.”
She claimed that learners were barred from entering school premises “in a few instances”, and threatened to take ”appropriate measures” against the malcontents.
“Deliberate interference with that right is a grave affront to the child, as well as to parents and guardians, apart from being an act of misconduct that cannot be tolerated. Consequently, appropriate measures will be taken in line with relevant procedures,” she said.
The ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro told NewsDay: “We had a 60% turnout of teachers nationwide. Those that did not report for duty are from metropolitan areas, while teachers from peri urban and rural areas reported for duty. Other teachers are still en route to their stations.”
In Harare, most teachers at various schools did not turn up.
Schoolchildren told NewsDay that their teachers did not turn up for work.
“We did not see the teachers and we simply presumed that they are still marking examinations,” a Form 4 pupil at Glen Norah 2 High School told NewsDay.
A parent from Highfields said she sent her children to Tsungayi Primary School, but they returned home as there were no teachers.
“There were no teachers at the school. We saw officials from the Primary and Secondary Education ministry entering the school. They must know that teachers are very important and must be paid well so that they report for duty,” she said.
At some schools, where teachers were on duty, parents told NewsDay that they had paid incentives for them to do so.
In Gokwe, teachers reported for duty at most schools, but they refrained from conducting lessons. At some schools, teachers were seen chatting, while children played outside.
In Bulawayo and Matabeleland North province, several schoolchildren returned home as early as 10am as there were no teachers at their schools.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Bulawayo provincial chairperson Vusumuzi Mahlangu said they also conducted a survey and found out that most teachers did not turn up for duty.
In Chinhoyi, school heads sent children back home since there were no teachers to monitor classes.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said: “It is apparent that no teaching is taking place in over 96% of our schools. Some of the teachers who reported for duty were saying that they will not be reporting for work tomorrow.”
Educators Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Tapedza Zhou said: “We are aggrieved that our kids are unnecessarily losing out on their right to education. Our innocent teachers deserve to be paid enough to be able to attend to our innocent learners.”
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said: “Schools opened today with no word from the employer on the US dollar salaries for the dedicated suffering teacher. The market is refusing Zimdollars and we demand that all workers be paid in US dollar as dictated by the market.”
The ruling Zanu PF party pleaded with teachers to return to schools while negotiations take place with their employer.
Zanu PF Harare province secretary for education Takudzwa Mashumba said: “The incapacitation declaration by the teachers’ unions is not fair for parents who sacrificed and paid school fees, and for kids who have been greatly disadvantaged due to the COVID-19 lockdown. We strongly appeal to the teachers’ unions give heed government directive and call for teachers to report for duty while their grievances are being addressed.” Newsday.