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Harare’s Education Conundrum

Schools across Africa are slowly reopening after months of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. But Zimbabwe’s teachers union is resisting going back to the classroom and has rejected a call by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for governments to reopen schools. On Tuesday, Mohamed Malick Fall, regional director for UNICEF in Eastern and Southern Africa, urged governments in the region to open schools closed earlier this year following an outbreak of coronavirus. Fall said the pandemic has caused “an unprecedented education crisis” over the last seven months as radio and online learning methods are not reaching all the students. Some also lost the daily meals they were receiving at school. UNICEF says most countries in eastern and southern Africa have seen a phased return to schools, starting with exam classes. In Zimbabwe exam classes are scheduled to start next week. But that now hangs in balance after the country’s biggest teachers’ union called for a strike unless their concerns are addressed. The teachers earn about $100 a month, including a $75 “COVID-19 allowance” introduced two months ago. They want an additional $500 to be above the poverty line. Sifiso Ndlovu, the head of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, said he is “worried” that UNICEF has not looked at his country’s lack of preparedness to reopen schools.