Rural teachers in Zimbabwe on Monday began their industrial action demanding wage increases in order to improve their working conditions, which have been severely affected by hyperinflation.
The teachers downed their tools demanding a review of their salaries to a minimum of 500 United States Dollars a month.
Last month the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) gave the government until the end of May and warned that if their needs are not met, they will embark on a fully-fledged strike from June 3 and June 5.
Obert Masaraure, ARTUZ president, said the union’s members began the industrial action on Monday 3 June and will not teach until their demands are met.
“I can confirm that our members yesterday commenced the strike and only 45% of the teachers went to school because they are afraid but they are not teaching anything,” said Masaraure.
Teachers are among the lowest paid public workers in Zimbabwe, with the highest teacher paid teacher earning around $500 per month.
“Zimbabwean teachers earn around $500 per month, which ranks them among the lowest paid civil servants in the country, our equivalent salary is now US$60,” he said.
“We have so many issues that we need the government to address but our main focus right now is the issue of salaries. We want the government to pay us a living wage and we demand our $500 salaries in United State Dollars or market equivalent.”
Masaraure told CITE that teachers want the government to treat them fairly and with respect.
“Teachers have been reduced to nothing in society, most teachers are struggling to own decent accommodation, pay rent and send their kids to school because all they work for now is the food of which now has exorbitant prices,” narrated Masaraure.
“The government does not care that most teachers do not have salaries that allow them to acquire a basic food basket, besides blurring our salary scales, it does not take into account the current purchasing power losses.”
He said that teachers are forced to prioritise between taking their children to good schools and living in homes they own.
“The reality is that we cannot afford both until the government come to terms with our demands.”
Civil servants, including teachers, have been demanding that their salaries to be paid in foreign currency to cushion them against escalating prices caused by the depreciation of bond note.