BY LORRAINE MUROMO/TAFADZWA KACHIKO/AMOS BATISAYI
TEACHERS’ unions yesterday blasted President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government as an “uncaring employer” for its failure to pay them a living wage.
In statements to commemorate World Teachers’ Day, the educators bemoaned government’s austerity measures introduced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube in 2017, saying they had condemned them to poverty.
The celebrations were initiated by the United Nations in order to recognise the important role played by teachers in the development of society.
This year’s commemorations were held under the theme Teachers at the Heart of Education Recovery.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said COVID-19 worsened the plight of teachers in the country.
“The government’s response has been generally vocalised, and not translated to real action on the ground. At the same time, more than 30 000 female students have fallen pregnant since the beginning of 2020,” Zhou said.
“The pass rates in public examinations have also tumbled for Grade 7 classes to a record low. The challenges facing the Zimbabwean education sector and facilitators in particular has resulted in a lowered literacy rate.
“The situation where teachers cannot afford data for instructing their learners, worse still for their own use, indicates that the response to COVID-19-induced lockdowns has not been adequate.”
He added: “Sadly, despite teachers’ skills and hard work, the post-(former President the late Robert) Mugabe government in Zimbabwe has largely adopted neoliberal policies that in essence are causing the suffering of teachers. The status of teachers has continued to decline with an eroded salary from between US$520 and US$550 in October 2018 reduced to the current equivalent of between US$130 and US$175.”
Zhou said there had not been any support for mandatory testing of teachers, pupils and ancillary staff since schools reopened last month.
He added: “As such, instead of celebrating the work of dedicated teachers around the world, on October 5, 2021, we are mourning the demise of the teaching profession, with monotonous regularity, from grace to grass. The constant attacks on teachers by education officials, threats of dismissal, government austerity measures and the evil of poverty have cumulatively created anxiety and uncertainty among teachers.”
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said teachers’ salaries had been eroded to less than 50% of the Total Consumption Poverty Line due to inflation and the rising cost of living in the country.
“Issues like accommodation have continued to be a challenge, especially for those teachers stationed in rural areas who stay in sub-human conditions,” he said.
“Teachers can only serve and can be at the heart of recovery of the education sector if issues of their material concerns are adequately addressed.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association acting secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said government had an obligation to address teachers’ concerns to guarantee a thriving education system in the country.
“There is nothing to celebrate as there are a lot of unfulfilled operating procedures in schools. There is a bloated teacher to pupil ratio, and lack of teacher motivation,” he said.
“These factors do not make the teacher a happy one. It is difficult for the teachers to talk about celebrating due to meagre salaries and poor working conditions. Like Oliver Twist, the Zimbabwean teacher continues to beg for salaries and with unending negotiations and hyperinflation.”
Zimbabwe Rural Teachers Union National co-ordinator Wonder Nyapokoto said teachers had been resilient and continued to serve with stoicism despite the challenges they faced.
Educators Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Tapedza Zhou said this year’s celebrations were evoking memories of government’s betrayal of teachers.