The tiff between government and teachers has deepened after the former allegedly failed to restore the US$540 salary that the restive educators are demanding as promised.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President Takavafira Zhou said government had in 2020, promised to draw a roadmap towards restoring the US$540 salary by February 2021, but had failed to honor its pledge up to now.
Zhou warned that schools would not open for the third term as scheduled before their demands were met, noting that teachers were the only ones whose sectoral allowances had been ignored totally.
“Teachers have started receiving statements from banks. We can confirm that schools will open on USD540, not 6 September. We have tried to be patient, but government takes us for fools,”
He said teachers’ salaries had been unilaterally reduced by government in 2018 without their engagement, which he said was tantamount to unfair labor practice
“Government has now unilaterally introduced salary discrepancies that have disadvantaged teachers as some government workers who earned less salaries than teachers before October 2018 and with less qualifications and responsibilities are now earning more than 5 times the salaries earned by teachers,” he said.
Zhou said the only acceptable way forward was for government to restore the US$540 salary, adding that currently all teachers were incapacitated and could not afford to report for work for more than two days a week.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) President, Obert Masaraure, weighed in, saying the government of Zimbabwe had made it impossible for teachers to report for duty through paying starvation wages.
“Mthuli Ncube has successfully strangled teachers and the teachers are battling to breath. The Education sector will suffer as teachers will not make it to the classroom on 6 September. Section 75 on right to education has been violated by Mthuli Ncube and attaining SDG 4 has been derailed,” he said.
Masaraure said both workers and peasants must unite and launch a protracted class struggle demanding the right to education for learners.
Finance and Economic Development Minister, Mthuli Ncube, raised the ire of government workers last week when he told parliament that civil servants were earning enough as the minimum USD275 per month they were earning was above the Poverty Datum Line.
Thousands of teachers are reported to be leaving the country to seek greener pastures in other countries.
And despite the shortage of teachers in the country, government has signed a teacher recruitment deal with Rwanda, with around 200 teachers reported to have already qualified for teaching posts in Rwanda.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Permanent Secretary Simon Masanga defended the deal, telling Parliament on Thursday that the country had excess teachers.
This was however, contrary to statisticsprovided by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Evelyn Ndlovu, who said there were 10 000 teaching vacancies at the Public Service Commission as of June this year, with only 5000 set to be filled.
Masaraure, however, dismissed assertions by both Masanga and Ndlovu, noting instead, that there was a serious shortage of teachers in the country.
“That is a very reckless statement made by the employer, PSC, who should know better. We have a shortage of over 90 000 teachers and more leaving the profession in search of greener pastures. Teaching is no longer attractive and some of the trained but unemployed teachers are not even keen to join government employment,” he said.
Teachers joined other civil servants last month in a two-week job action and warned they would resume the action at the beginning of the third term should government not heed their calls for better salaries.