GEARS Initiative Zambia says the abrupt reopening of schools a week before the election date is untimely, suspicious and inconveniencing not only to parents but teachers and pupils.
Executive director MacDonald Chipenzi said the government’s recent abrupt announcement of the reopening of selected grades on Thursday, August 5, had surprised the nation especially the pupils, parents and teachers.
Chipenzi said this was especially that the same government had indicated that schools would reopen after the general election on August 16.
“The recent announced reopening timing is tellingly wrong, suspicious and inconsiderate and haphazardly done, politically and academically. The earlier date of 16 August, 2021 for the schools reopening was more appropriate and understandable,” he said. “This ill-prepared announcement is undoubtedly not only inconveniencing to parents economically alone but electorally and politically too and will potentially trigger worries of the health and safety of the pupils in schools before, during and post elections.”
Chipenzi said while everyone wants schools to reopen and for pupils to catch up with their academic activities, GEARS strongly believes that the reopening should not ignore social, political, electoral and economic realities ahead of and post the August general elections among stakeholders.
He said the Ministry of General Education must learn to consult the parents and teachers before reopening schools in middle of the night.
Chipenzi said the Ministry of General Education was alive to the fact that most of its teachers were heavily involved in the elections as polling staff.
“Even if schools are to reopen this week, actual teaching will be practically impossible to take place because more than 95 per cent of our teachers are currently involved in various electoral processes as electoral officers,” he said. “Unless government desires to recall all teachers involved in this election as poll staff back into school. Also reopening has been poorly decided and planned and waste of time at this time. Further, some secondary schools in the country will be used as polling stations and tallying centres and will be hive of electoral activities which makes reopening of schools before elections a mission impossible and a mere inconveniencing strategy to parents, pupils and teachers.”
Chipenzi said instead of ambushing parents and teachers, it was imperative that the Ministry of General Education adjusts the new reopening dates to come after elections.
He said GEARS Initiative expects the government to prioritise the reopening of colleges which had many of their students as registered voters at “these respective colleges and support their movement to there”.
Chipenzi said GEARS Initiative opposes the reopening of schools this Thursday, a week before the crucial general election.
“The decision will not amount to any academic benefit but will only disturb parents, pupils and teachers and also instill uncertainty in parents over the safety of their children post-election with worrying happenings in the electoral process e.g. electoral and politically motivated violence,” said Chipenzi. “We, therefore, appeal to the government to allow learners and teachers to get back to schools after elections and after assessing the post-election activities.”