By Judith Sibanda
Teachers associations have warned of impending industrial action as from next month if their grievances are not addressed by the government.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President Takavafira Zhou and Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) Secretary General Tapson Nganunu Sibanda said the education sector was on the verge of collapse due to the failing economy.
Teachers earn between RTGs $400-$600 per month depending with their roles and responsibilities.
“Fundamentally, teachers have become the nut between the two crackers and in terms of their salaries, government has renounced it’s responsibility of ensuring that schools are functioning properly,” Zhou said.
“They are receiving starvation wages yet they are people with families and responsibilities but they cant afford to pay for accommodation, electricity and transport to their workplace.
“The situation in schools is no longer reversible because we don’t see a situation where a teacher will have to go to work on an empty stomach, sell bananas and sweets in order for them to continue coming to work.”
Sibanda warned that the situation was so dire that teachers were finding it difficult to report for duty.
“Teaching conditions are very deplorable, particularly in rural areas. There is accommodation, poor road networks yet transport costs have soared to unprecedented levels.
“The government programme to provide cheaper transport has only benefited the urban teachers so far as it has not yet been rolled out to rural areas. Sanitary facilities like water are very scarce and there is no electricity in most rural areas.”
Sibanda said the impact of government’s failure to provide resources was negative as students in some cases travel long distances to school.
“Poor or nil furniture in schools. Over and above, being taught by a demotivated teacher leads to poor results.”
Going forward, Zhou said there was need for crafting of an agreement between teaching associations to put pressure on government to discuss the plight of teachers as a matter of urgency.
“As associations, there is need for unity for example, if unions try to address the incapacitation of teachers, you will find that there are other unions sponsored by the government urging teachers to oppose our pleas before urging them to go to work. Whatever the cost of saving, there is no way teachers will be able to go to work beyond June. We are certainly heading back to a standstill. Their working hours will be determined by the current salary, but one a week learning for students is what will happen going forward.
“Zimta calls on government to urgently provide some cushioning to the already incapacitated teacher, while negotiations are still going on, failure of which Zimta shouldn’t be found liable to the sudden collapse of the education system which is already at the brink of collapse,” Sibanda added.
They said there was need for unions to lobby with parliament for the alignment of public service regulation and harmonisation of labour laws to ensure that teachers discussed their grievances independently.
Sibanda said the petition recently submitted to parliamentarians was clear testimony to the predicament that the teachers in Zimbabwe are faced with.