One of the largest teacher unions in Zimbabwe said Sunday its members will not resume work when schools reopen next month as per government’s plan.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said in a statement that government should consider both the safety and welfare of teachers, before it reopens schools.

Zhou said government must restore teachers’ salaries to the 2018 figure of 550 U.S. dollars per month.

Zimbabwean schools closed in March after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and government on Sunday announced that it was planning for examination classes to reopen in September in preparation for public examinations in December and January 2021.

Teachers and the rest of civil servants are currently earning their salaries in Zimbabwe dollars after government de-dollarized in 2019.

The public sector workers have long complained about the poor salaries whose value has been fast eroded by galloping inflation, resulting in health workers including nurses and doctors downing tools despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Any attempt to fast track the opening of schools without addressing this crucial issue will be met by an equal and opposing force in line with Isaac Newton’s law of motion,” said Zhou.

“No school would open without addressing the recently introduced salary discrepancies and restoring the purchasing power parity of teachers’ salaries,” Zhou said.

He said teachers had also resolved not to mark June 2020 examinations unless the salary issue is resolved.

“It is our hope that government will engage teachers in order to find a win-win solution to the quandary of reopening schools,” Zhou said.

Zimbabwe is under a lockdown since March, and has so far recorded over 6,000 COVID-19 cases and 198 deaths. Enditem

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