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Govt, teachers square off over holiday lessons…No law criminalises the act, teachers argue

TEACHERS across  Zimbabwe have defied a government threat against educators conducting holiday lessons insisting that the practice is above board as there is no law prohibiting such.

This comes as some schools, including one run by the police, are conducting holiday lessons for examination classes.

Government recently banned schools from conducting lessons during the holiday in a circular dated March 25, 2024 saying pupils required a break because learning during the first term was uninterrupted.

Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro told NewsDay that 0,001% of schools were in defiance of government’s directive not to conduct holiday lessons.

“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education emphasises the importance of compliance with the directive regarding the vacation school during the April holiday,” Ndoro said.

“Schools that violate this directive may face appropriate disciplinary measures. It is crucial to prioritise the well-being and independent learning of pupils during this break.”

Ndoro said government was aiming for 100% compliance with its directive.

He said: “The specific disciplinary measures for schools that violate this directive will be determined by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. The ministry will assess each case individually and apply the necessary disciplinary measures to ensure compliance with the directive and uphold the well-being of the pupils.”

But teachers’ representatives vowed to take government head-on if their members are victimised, arguing that it is not a criminal offence to teach.

They also argued that the order was discriminatory as elitist private schools were freely conducting extra lessons.

According to a circular seen by NewsDay, Sandon Academy, a private school in Masvingo approved holiday lessons which are compulsory for Form 3 to Form 6 learners than ran from March 28 to April 11, 2024.

The learners paid US$270 for the period.

Riverton Academy, another private school in Masvingo, will begin its holiday lessons today, charging US$600 for three weeks for Forms 4 and 6 pupils.

NewsDay also established that Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga approved holiday lessons for the Zimbabwe Republic Police High School, which is located in Hatcliffe, Harare, which will be conducting holiday lessons starting from April 4 to 15, 2024 and also April 19 to 30, 2024.

The ZRP is charging US$100 for internal learners and US$159 for external learners for the two-week periods.

Meanwhile, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe has said teachers will challenge the ban.

“The most important question we are asking is: Why does government want to criminalise good effort? No teacher is spending time with learners to dampen their performance. Extra lessons are in good intent. Which law criminalises teaching?” he asked rhetorically.

“Teachers are professionals and they are practising what they trained for. Have we seen soldiers and cops being penalised for offering their services privately? Why does government hate teachers so much?

“Government should tell us the law under which it is banning holiday lessons.  We are ready to challenge whoever harasses teachers for practising their profession. Has government been charged for failing to provide basics to schools as enshrined in the Constitution?”

Zimbabwe National Union of School Heads secretary-general Munyaradzi Majoni said government’s directive was contrary to parents’ desire to improve the performance of their children in school.

“The ministry must not bark up at the wrong tree,” Majoni said.

“No school has defied its order on vacation school regardless of how irrational it (the order) obviously is.

“As school heads, we told the ministry that by banning vacation school for candidates, it was obviously promoting the black market version of the same.

“We know that parents are not comfortable having their children who are candidates this year at home for 39 days and, hence, it is those same parents who choose to send their children to those backyard and unregistered private schools to access the necessary education which was banned on the official market.

“As far as we know, no public school is involved in the holiday lessons business and so they will find nothing if they visit these schools.”

Zimbabwe Teachers Association secretary-general Goodwill Taderera also said schools were in compliance with the holiday lessons ban.

“If there are any schools that are conducting holiday lesson, it means they defied the government. But I don’t think there are public schools that defied the order,” he said.

“Probably it’s the private schools or those unregistered schools that are in defiance. But our position is, if there is a circular from the ministry, then it should be adhered to.”

Source | NewsDay


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