BY LORRAINE MUROMO/VANESSA GONYE
GOVERNMENT yesterday said it was committed to ensuring better conditions of service for teachers after they pled incapacitation and demanded that their salaries be restored to the 2018 US$520 to US$550 levels.
In an interview with NewsDay, Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said government was looking at all avenues possible to solve the teachers’ grievances.
“We seek to provide quality, relevant, inclusive and wholesome education for all Zimbabweans while the government looks into the conditions of service of teachers. We support an improvement of the conditions of service as a ministry,” Ndoro said.
Recently, government promised a 25% salary increment for civil servants, which they rejected.
Civil servants have also shot down a staggered 75% salary increase proposed by their employers, insisting on US dollar-indexed salaries.
In 2016, government promised that at least 100 000 civil servants countrywide would benefit from a residential stands scheme as part of efforts to incentivise them.
Again in 2018, two weeks before the crucial elections, government disclosed that the Public Service Commission in partnership with the National Social Security Authority had agreed on a $60 million public service housing facility for civil servants which would be managed through the National Building Society.
This included payment of the 17, 5% special civil service allowance and cash in-lieu of leave for teachers who had accrued more than 123 days’ vacation leave.
In 2011, government also dangled a US$7 000 vehicle loan for civil servants payable after 10 years.
However, teachers yesterday said the promises had not come into fruition.
Progressive Teachers’ Union president Takavafira Zhou said teachers would not be swayed by government’s empty promises.
“I don’t believe that the government is committed to better teachers’ conditions of service. We have heard this since time immemorial. What we want now is not mere homiletic bellicose, but practical indicators of that commitment.
“We don’t eat promises, but want to see the execution of commitment. Worse still, a government that brings in shocking discrepancies between salaries of its employees can never fake commitment when a teacher is paid $13 000 and a person with less qualifications, experience and responsibilities gets quadrupled that amount, then the government cannot claim commitment,” Zhou said.
Zimbabwe Rural Teachers’ Union secretary-general Wonder Nyapokoto said: “Since time immemorial, the employer has claimed to want to improve the remuneration and avail befitting conditions of service to the industrial, professional teachers who have made other nations green with envy from Cape to Cairo about the quality of Zimbabwe’s education personnel and standards.
“Unfortunately, government has only managed to offer salaries below poverty datum line, reducing consistently for three consecutive years. Zimbabwean teachers’ needs can be sorted if sufficient efforts and will can be put to avail land for farming, residential and commercial use since we have the land to raise funds.”
Teachers have complained that the police, soldiers and Central Intelligence Organisation officers get paid more than $30 000, while they earn between $14 000 and $19 000.
Former Primary and Secondary Education minister David Coltart said teachers’ demands were reasonable.
“The experiment to revert to the Zimbabwe dollar has failed, and the sooner the government reverts to the US$ dollars or some other hard currency the better. Whether government can afford to pay the US-dollar figure demanded is another matter that will require a radical change in budget priorities,” Coltart said.
Meanwhile, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) yesterday launched a campaign targeting to get five million voices to pressurise government to improve the education sector in the country.
This comes at a time when some teachers have failed to report for duty since schools opened for non-examination classes last week, citing incapacitation.
Artuz president Obert Masaraure yesterday said their #SaveOurEducationZw: 5 million voices for 5 million learners campaign to fight for better working conditions for teachers and quality education for learners has gathered momentum.
“This campaign is focusing on resolution of the short-term and urgent challenges. We seek to build a movement of five million voices piling pressure on the government to address our challenges.”
Zhou said they were in unity with their colleagues on the campaign.
Zimbabwe National Teachers’ Union chief executive Manuel Nyawo said: “What is happening in the education sector is worrisome and all progressive unions must work together.”