The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has suspended without pay all teachers who did not report for duty since schools opened on Monday.
The suspension is for a period of three months.
However, teacher unions say this is a military move meant to scare teachers and push them to go to work but it would not work.
The unions said the government could not suspend 90 percent of its teachers; besides, the suspension was illegal in terms of the law, as no hearings were called.
Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Evelyn Ndlovu made the suspension announcement Thursday in a press statement,
“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education would like to inform the nation and its valued stakeholders that all officials within the ministry who absented themselves from duty since the official opening of schools on February 7, 2022, have been suspended without pay forthwith for a period of three months,” she said.
During this period of suspension, Dr Ndlovu said teachers must not interfere with the ministry’s investigations.
“Members are not to hinder or interfere with any investigation or evidence relating to the alleged misconduct,” said the minister.
“Appropriate action will be taken against members who abrogate their duties and responsibilities.”
Dr Ndlovu added her ministry remained committed to the provision of “quality, affordable, accessible, relevant, equitable, inclusive and wholesome education for all Zimbabwe.”
In an interview with CITE, Progressive Teacher Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President, Dr Takavafira Zhou, described the suspension as a scare tactic to frighten teachers but it was an unlawful move.
“If someone has committed an offense, they are called for a hearing, to attend to his or her defence. This suspension is tailor-made to make teachers go back to work. A person is called for a hearing after they have been absent for 14 continuous working days and this is Day Four, we still have 10 days to go,” he said.
Dr Zhou indicated unions did not expect the government to follow an illegal path by carrying out suspensions.
“That is unlawful and the minister must be clear on the regulations to follow. I maintain this is directed to make teachers go back to work,” said the unionist.
“I don’t think the government can suspend more than 90 percent of teachers because more than 135 000 teachers in the country out of 140 000 are on strike. They must not cloud their wisdom because that is a large number to suspend.”
Dr Zhou advised the education ministry to engage in a mellow construction approach rather than to scare teachers.
“In fact, this is a military approach, it is a command and control move like what the Vice President (Constantino) Chiwenga did to nurses two years ago. But it will not work,” he said.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) President, Obert Masaraure, said government officials continued to display their arrogance and disregard for the country’s public education system.
“Because their own children, do not learn in public schools, they don’t mind whether our poor people are going to have an education or not,” he said.
“So do we don’t care whether they choose to suspend us or not. What we are going to do in the next three months to solely focus on saving the education of Zimbabwe for the majority, the poor.”
Masaraure noted that since pre-independence, Zimbabweans were dealing with a bottleneck system, which excluded blacks from accessing education, now they had to deal with a bottleneck system that was deny the poor from accessing an education.
“A teacher who teaches in a public school deserves a good salary, the leaner who is in public schools deserves government support to learn there” said the unionist.