Schools open amid teacher shortage

via Schools open amid teacher shortage by NewZimbabwe

Schools opened across Zimbabwe on Tuesday amid a serious teacher shortage, blamed on a government directive ordering a freeze on the recruitment of temporary teachers.

The Civil Service Commission (CSC), a successor to the Public Service Commission, last Thursday ordered a freeze on the recruitment of new public sector workers.

Schools, which are short by at least 22,000 teachers, take on temporary teachers on a term-by-term basis to bridge the deficit. But the CSC directive has caused great uncertainty and anxiety in the education sector, a teachers’ union warned.

“So far, the Commission has not given the direction on what will happen to the education sector. We feel the government, through the CSC, should have created a transitional mechanism in the recruitment of teachers,” said Zimbabwe Teachers Association CEO, Sifiso Ndlovu.

The problem has been exacerbated by the lack of an Education Minister, with President Robert Mugabe yet to announce his cabinet following his inauguration on August 22. David Coltart was the Education Minister in the previous government.

Said Ndlovu: “This being a transitional period, this uncertainty will affect the learning process. We hope the posts will be unfrozen, and the system decentralised to provinces and districts so that pupils do not suffer.”

Boithatelo Mnguni, the provincial education director for Matabeleland North, said the third term was critical as some pupils were preparing to write their final examinations.

“As schools open, this will affect the learning process because there are schools that are run by temporary teachers. From the directive, it looks like no one should assume duty until we get approval,” she said.

“We are not very clear of what to do. Although our officers had made some recruitments, it means those teachers cannot assume duty until we get approval from the CSC. We will, however, keep those records until we get the go ahead.”

The directive which sparked the uncertainty was issued by CSC secretary Pretty Sunguro on Thursday last week. She said the country’s new constitution had abolished the Public Service Commission and in its place introduced the CSC.

She said the Commission had withdrawn and cancelled all its circulars and general letters that delegated the power to appoint members of the civil service to heads of ministries.

“Henceforth, appointment of any member of the civil service will be the sole mandate of the Civil Service Commission. Therefore, any appointment made by any head of ministry or any other member than the Civil Service Commission shall be null and void,” she said.

“Any member who authorises such an appointment shall be personally liable for the employment costs of such appointments.”

The Salary Services Bureau (SSB) had directed provincial education officers to submit names of new teaching staff by September 8 to ensure they get their salaries on time, but Mnguni said unless teaching posts were unfrozen urgently, they were unlikely to meet the deadline.

“This means teachers will delay assuming duty and that means delay in their salaries also. We will now have a challenge of hunting for these teachers and their deployment especially to remote schools will take longer. It is unfortunate that we got the directive when our districts had done some paperwork,” she said.