Teachers press on with strike

...unions describe Monday meeting with the government as 'non-event'

The standoff between teachers and the government continues after the two parties failed to reach a consensus during crunch talks on Monday.

The teachers’ unions met with government representatives, Ministers Paul Mavhima (labour minister), Mthuli Ncube (finance minister) and Cain Mathema (primary and secondary education minister).

The meeting was set to address grievances being raised by teachers as most have not reported for duty since re-opening of schools on September 28. 

Representatives of the unions interviewed by CITE after the meeting described the meeting as a non-event as no agreement was reached. 

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou described the government as the worst enemy to the country’s education system as it has failed to address the problems faced by teachers. 

Zhou said teachers are not being treated equally as other civil servants and the harsh economic conditions have left educators unable to sustain themselves and their families. 

“The meeting can be described as a non-event. The government has just proven to be number one enemy to the credible education system. For starters we expected the minister of finance to be present because our grievances are centred around money but he was a no show. The Minister of Public Service had absolutely nothing to offer the teachers. He just told us that the cabinet is set to hold a meeting tomorrow so in essence we’re back at zero,” he said. 

“Teachers are not going back to work. The 40% cushioning allowance they gave us is nothing, it can’t even buy a shirt or a pair of shoes. The worst part is the government approved the increase of school fees yet our salaries aren’t enough to send our own children to school. How are we expected to go and deliver services which our own children have no access to? The minister’s children are not affected; they attend private schools while others are outside the country.”

The cushioning allowance announced last week has seen teachers` salaries go up from ZWL$3,500 to about ZWL$5,000.

Zhou said as the meeting coincided with the International Day for Teachers, they were hopeful that the government would address the situation favourably. 

“It is sad that even on a day when we’re supposed to be celebrating our services, we are actually mourning the dilapidated education system. We are mourning our inability to sustain ourselves. All we’re asking for is for the go to restore the purchasing power of our salaries which we pegged at US$520 equivalent,” Zhou said. 

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) spokesperson Nation Mudzitirwa said they will not report for duty until their salaries are reviewed.

“We await feedback. But in the meantime we are not going back to work. It is disheartening that the employer does not want to improve the conditions for teachers,” he said. 

“As we commemorate this day, our hope is that the government appreciates the value of teachers and restores their status.”

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