Teacher unions in Zimbabwe said Tuesday they will not report for duty next Monday when schools reopen due to some contentious issues.

The schools were shut down in March due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Government set Sept. 14 and Sept. 28 as the opening dates for British-run Cambridge and locally run Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) examination classes respectively.

It also set Dec. 1, 2020, as the date for commencement of ZIMSEC public examinations.

Schools offering Cambridge examinations, which are mostly private-run, commenced classes smoothly last week.

In a joint statement, the teacher unions requested for an urgent meeting with government to resolve contentious issues before schools reopen.

The teacher unions demanded restoration of their salaries to 550 U.S. dollars per month, payment of a COVID-19 allowance and more time for teachers and learners to cover syllabi, among other demands.

The Zimbabwe government is currently paying its workers in local currency after the country in June last year discarded use of the U.S. dollar that had been in place since 2009, and re-introduced the Zimbabwe dollar.

This is despite that government has since allowed partial dollarization of the economy, whereby some transactions and charging of goods and services is now allowed in U.S. dollars.

Inflation has also remained high, with annual inflation standing at 761.02 percent in August.

“We, the undersigned teacher unions of Zimbabwe, urge the government to urgently expedite consultations with all teachers’ unions with a view to sharing ideas on the way forward before the opening of schools,” said the teacher unions, including the largest and most influential Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), in the statement.

The unions said the government must pay teachers a living wage, COVID-19 allowance and ensure that schools are safe for both learners and teachers due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“If schools reopen during this COVID-19 period, it entails that teachers will be frontline workers who deserve a meaningful COVID-19 allowance. Government must also give teachers and learners enough time to cover syllabi and prepare for examinations. The period of two months between Sept. 28 and Dec. 1 does not adequately compensate for the lost time of six months since schools closed,” the teacher unions said.

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