Interesting developments at Friends of Pakati…

A number of things are cropping up that I wish too report to you, the friends of Pakati.

Fundraising

I have received notification today that one of our supporters, Mortz Property Services http://mortzproperty.co.uk based in Scunthorpe, are planning to donate a significant sum to Friends of Pakati in the very near future. Mortz Property Service is owned and run by Roj Rahman, a well known businessman in Scunthorpe, and like the Author, a lifelong supporter of Scunthorpe United.

In addition, I have added a donate button here on the website for people to donate using PayPal, a new account having been recently set up. It is open for donations in bundles of US$5, with no limit to how much can be donated at one time. The http://gofundme.com/friends-of-pakati remains open too.

Collaboration or Co-operation

Holly (with VaTonatsa), Bothwell (Friend of Pakati), Councillor Israel Maliki, the Author, and Vari (VaTonatsa) at Pakati, September 2019

Call it what you will, but I am very pleased to report that Friends of Pakati is working with Vatonatsa Foundation behind the scenes, to try and support learners in the exam year groups at both Pakati Primary and Secondary schools, and at Mapanga Primary school. All are located in Ward 14 of Murewa District. This is now taking shape, and we hope to formally announce it this week as to exactly how it will work. I am in touch with both Pakati schools, while Vari Mayez of Vatonatsa is in touch with Mapanga. There is a benefit to such a situation, sharing of ideas and resources, including the support our two organisations can offer. This will help students in Grade 7 (Primary) and Form 4 (Secondary) at these schools, regardless of whether or not they will be reopening soon or not – see below.

Schools to open in Zimbabwe?

Discussions in Zimbabwe between the government and teachers unions appear to match some of those currently going on in the UK. Similar phased returns are being mooted, though in Zimbabwe the emphasis is more on exam year groups – Grade 7 in Primary schools, Form 4 in Secondary schools – but with other year groups returning in a staggered approach – see the locally reported situation below:

GOVERNMENT is working on downsizing the teacher to pupil ratio to create an optimal environment to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in schools. Currently, the teacher-pupil ratio stands at 1:70. Speaking at the launch of PPEs production for schools in Masvingo on Thursday, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Ambassador Cain Mathema said the Government was reviewing down the ratio to 1:30. He added that plans are underway to build at least 3 000 new schools and recruitment of more teaching staff to make this vision a success.

“We currently have 9 600 schools which are overwhelmed with 136 000 pupils in the country. The nation has a cumulative total of 4,6 million pupils in schools. Recruitment of more teachers and building of 3000 more schools would, therefore, reduce the teacher-pupil ratio to a manageable 1:30, said Minister Mathema. “This will guarantee smooth learning and social distancing for COVID-19 fight in line with World Health Organisation(WHO) standards,” said Minister Mathema.

He said they would soon request for funding from Treasury for both recruitments of teachers and building of infrastructure. “We have over 12 000 trained teachers who are unemployed, and we want all of them to be recruited,” said the Minister, who also said Government was yet come up with the exact dates to open schools.

However, there is a debate going on about when and how this might happen which is familiar to the Author here in the UK…

The Ministry was seized with opening of schools in the next 3 weeks, (around 22 June 2020) but Unions felt that it was not prudent to do that so early, given that we are getting into June, which is the coldest and most risky month, and also given that it has the conditions necessary for the virus to thrive, with highest chance of contraction of the virus by every Zimbabwean, school children included. So to the Unions, June is not the best month and time for us to consider opening of schools. A lot more needs to be done as contained in our earlier joint communique as Unions to the Ministry. What we need in place are safety nets and measures first, that give us the assurance that the safety of teachers and children is guaranteed. We indicated to the Minister that we do not want to lose any single teacher to the virus, given that no record of contracting the corona virus was registered ever since the beginning of the lockdown. Life is sacrosanct, and we cant be reckless.

Social media is awash with news that schools will open on the 22nd of June,which is a figment of their imagination but Unions have agreed with the Minister and Permanent Secretary that its too early to come up with a specific date for the reopening of schools.
Lastly, Unions also disagreed with the Association of Trust Schools which were pushing for schools to open sooner, arguing that they have enough of the requirements as demanded by Health officials to enable them to reopen schools. However, Unions felt that was too discriminatory to learners, with the view that if schools were closed on the same day, it affected every student at the same time. This should mean that Schools should also open on the same day so that it does not disadvantage other learners (fair and equal treatment). We defended the one size fits all approach in this regard, and we are happy we had the Minister and Permanent Secretary on our side as Unions. It seems we are still far from opening Schools, given that we have a life to protect. More haste less speed.

The planned phased return of schools is reported to inlcude Form 3 and Grades 5 and 6, then Form 2 along with Grades 3 and 4, before full reopening within a few weeks, including lastly the return of Early Childhood Development (ECD) classes. All of this is intended to be made possible by supplies of PPE for teachers and learners, appropriate furniture and smaller class sizes. A large expansion of the number of teachers and school buildings is being planned.

How soon will images like this be possible once more?

I wish for the safe return of all pupils and staff at all schools, across Zimbabwe, across the UK, across the World.

Author:

My name is Chris Walker, and between January 1989 and September 1991 I worked, through VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), at Pakati Secondary School in Murehwa South district in Zimbabwe. I was a Maths teacher for 2 years, the Acting Head for the last 8 months there. I have also taught in Botswana & the UK, had 4 years working for VSO, and spent the last 14 years as a Civil Servant in Bradford. I married a Zimbabwean woman & we have 2 sons.

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