Don’t burn bridges for temporary comfort, goes the age-old African proverb.

The love for a salary increase has seen some teachers abandoning their examination classes when they are needed most.

Schools were prematurely closed in March as part of Government measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, leaving examination classes with little preparation.

The students need their teachers if they are to be fully ready for exams.

On Monday, public schools reopened for the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) examination classes with both staff and students adhering to the mandatory Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in response to Covid-19 to ensure compliance.

However, some schools turned away pupils as teachers failed to report for duty citing incapacitation and inadequate personal protective equipment (PPEs).

This is despite the fact that Government released $600 million to prepare schools for safe reopening for examination classes.

On salaries, Government has assured its workers that they will receive their bonus while modalities are being worked out to continue with foreign currency allowances until the end of the year.

In June, Government announced a flat non-taxable Covid-19 allowance of US$75 for civil servants and promised to increase their salaries once negotiations are concluded.

The failure to report for work by some teachers is blackmail. Innocent students who should be preparing for their examinations are being used as pawns.

The idea is to force Government to spend what it does not have.

Then there is the excuse of ill-preparedness for the SOP. This is a clear lie.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education a few weeks ago released SOP in response to Covid-19 to ensure compliance to World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health and Child Care coronavirus prevention regulations.

The SOP was designed specifically to guide schools on reopening. According to the document, break and lunch time have been staggered to prevent crowding by learners while sporting activities have also been banned. Schools are now required to keep records for teachers and pupils with underlying conditions without stigmatising them.

A maximum of 35 pupils are allowed in a single classroom as learners and teachers will be required to maintain a physical or social distance of one metre in the school premises. Teachers and learners are no longer allowed to hug each other, shake hands or share desks as they used to.

It is also a requirement for temperature checks to be conducted with schools now mandated to have temporary isolation rooms for those found with high temperatures, before they are referred to health facilities.

While no one, including teachers, does not have a face mask of their own, the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta), which represents 42 000 teachers claims its members failed to report for duty due to incapacitation and lack of PPEs.

Zimta chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said their members resolved to boycott learning until the issue of PPEs in schools was addressed.

“Schools, especially public schools are yet to be equipped with PPEs and as Zimta we felt it was not proper to expose both teachers and pupils to Covid-19. Even parents don’t have money for PPEs and therefore you will note that most of our members failed to report for duty,” he said.

“Government had also promised to recruit more teachers ahead of the reopening of schools and it wasn’t the case. Another issue is that teachers are incapacitated and they told us that they would have no bus fare to go to work.”

The real issue is that Dr Ndlovu’s association wants to make a killing out of an unfortunate situation.

Government should not allow such bullying which at the end of the day will only hurt students who have to write their exams after attending class for the shortest time ever.

That’s why we say “don’t burn bridges for temporary comfort”. In the long run, the behaviour of teachers boycotting examination classes will catch up with them.

No one will forget, and no one will forgive.