GWERU teachers and pupils from Grades 4 to Form 6 were yesterday compelled to attend the official opening of the Zimbabwe Youth and Paralympic Games at Mkoba Stadium, where President Emmerson Mnangagwa was officiating.
The move was aimed at boosting attendance at the venue located in the MDC stronghold.
Mkoba constituency has been in the hands of MDC since the opposition party’s formation and Zanu PF has performed dismally in the area in all elections.
In a communication sent to all headmasters in the city on Tuesday, the acting Gweru district schools inspector Angeline Zahile, citing authority from top officials, ordered that all learners from Grades 4 to “A” Level, teachers, support staff and all officers in the education ministry attend the event without fail.
Schools were ordered to suspend lessons and cancel mid-year examinations currently underway.
Though Mnangagwa was expected to officiate at 3pm, the correspondence ordered all educators and pupils to be seated in the stadium by 11:30am. They had to endure the scorching sun until the end of the proceedings around 4pm.
The correspondence, seen by Southern Eye, reads: “Tomorrow [yesterday], the State President will be in our district for the official opening of the Youth Games at Mkoba Stadium. What does this mean? The message from the PED (provincial education director) is, take note all leaners from Grades 4 up to ‘A’ Level, teachers, support staff and school heads and all district staff are expected to be seated by 11:30am in the stadium,” she wrote.
“So, may we suspend all mid-morning and afternoon mid-year examinations or lessons and all go to the stadium … all schools with buses, inclusive of St Patrick’s, Lower Gweru, Anderson Adventist High School, Guinea Fowl and in our rural areas are expected to carry learners and teachers to Mkoba Stadium … We expect a minimum of 5 000 learners to be in that stadium… HEADS (school headmasters), THIS IN AN INSTRUCTION! Thank you,” Zahile ordered.
Contacted for comment, Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president, Takavafira Zhou, condemned the development, saying it violated children and teachers’ rights.
“The DSI is certainly off-side. To cancel lessons and examinations because of Youth Games is the highest ludicrous hallucination by a Zanu PF activist, masquerading as a DSI. Schools are terrains for learning and not extensions of Zanu PF mass mobilisation. To also force all teachers and pupils to be at the Youth Games venue, merely because Mnangagwa is coming there, is a violation of their freedom of association, let alone a violation of children’s rights,” he said.
“PTUZ condemns outrightly such force-marching of teachers and pupils to Youth Games at the expense of teaching and learning. Worse still, the DSI is forcing minors to attend a rally without the consent of their parents. Any movement of pupils outside the school premises must be indemnified by parents.”
There was a stampede during the proceedings as security details prohibited people from leaving the venue before Mnangagwa had finished his address.
Mnangagwa, in his speech, said sport teaches inclusivity and discipline.
“The Youths and Paralympic games were initiated to uplift people living with disabilities. This willingness is enshrined in our Vision 2030. Indeed, sports knows no colour… it also teaches people to respect rules and laws. My government is going to increase the funding of these games,” he said.
He also congratulated the women’s netball team, The Gems, for their success at the World Cup and challenged the Zimbabwe Football Association to take a leaf and ensure the men’s national team, the Warriors, reach similar levels.