MUTARE- Concerns for improved remuneration and conditions of service by teachers demand urgent attention and finalization in good faith, a good governance lobby group the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) has said.
ZIMCODD said without demonstration of political will, the impasse could drag on, citing allocation of ZW$600 Million for schools re-opening as paltry and inadequate.
The organization said the ZW$600 Million allocation was perpetuation of government’s underfunding of the education sector through austerity measures and corruption.
ZIMCODD urged government to appoint a Parliament-led inquiry into the use and distribution of the ZW$600 million schools reopening budget to restore public confidence.
“Negotiations between Government and Teachers Unions must be finalized in good faith. Many schools are not in a position to offer the proposed virtual, remote and face to face schools reopening package remains impractical for schools already contending with structural barriers such as lack of electricity and digital gadgets.
“Teachers Unions’ legitimate concerns for improved remuneration and conditions of service demand urgent attention and political will from Government. Clear funding mechanisms to support Government’s commitments to raise Teachers basic salaries to US$540 minimum salaries need to be explored. Teachers Unions are to be commended for prioritizing children’s welfare and forestalling planned stayaways.
“Most schools and teaching staff were inadequately prepared for schools reopening. This has reduced the capacity of our education system to withstand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ZWL600 million schools reopening budget is vastly inadequate to address the back to school needs of Zimbabwean learners and ensure adequate preparation for exam classes,” said ZIMCODD.
ZIMCODD said to shield those vulnerable pupils, government must consider a supplementary budget to strengthen schools’ ability to comply with WHO guidelines, improve access to the internet and digital devices for school children.
“In the absence of clear guidelines and set standards different schools in different areas have adopted different strategies. These strategies combining face to face, remote and virtual learning according to each School’s capacity.
“Public financing towards education should include clear and systematic focus on addressing inequalities that arise out of household wealth quintiles, geographical location along with other key factors that sustain and reproduce inequalities in access to education.
“Reduced access to education for children from resource poor and marginalized backgrounds will worsen poverty and inequality. Reducing child poverty is central to the realization of the right to education for children. Government must consider the expansion of the Basic Education Assistance Model into a Universal Basic Income Grant for all Zimbabwean Children under 18,” further noted ZIMCODD.
The organization urged government to do more to reduce burden on parents by adopting measures including a moratorium on impending presumptive taxes on the informal economy and measures against extended tax exemptions for some private companies enjoying political patronage.
“The COVID-19 outbreaks in schools have been linked to community transmission with most communities reported to be no longer adhering to standard COVID-19 preventative guidelines due to fatigue.
“Our call for improved resource allocation to the education sector is based on the realization that potential COVID-19 outbreaks in schools are an important public health problem given children can be asymptomatic carriers2 with the capacity to infect their older family members resulting in severe disease and possibly death.
“Furthermore, we note that Zimbabwe has enough resources to meet the needs of the education sector if resources leaking through illicit financial flows, corruption, tax evasion and unjustifiable tax exemptions are recovered and reinvested in the declining education system,” said ZIMCODD.