BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
HUNDREDS of teachers yesterday downed tools to launch their 12-day strike over poor salaries and conditions of service, but government claimed that the protest was largely unheeded.
Teachers unions said they were mobilising for a coalition to unite and strengthen their arguments when they air their grievances.
Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union (Fozeu), an umbrella body for teachers representatives, yesterday announced that unions were uniting to speak with one voice. Fozeu chairperson Obert Masaraure told NewsDay that all unions were very positive about the united front.
“We want to sit down together as unions, and share ideas on how our concerns could be addressed. Teachers have been suffering for decades and the call for government to take heed of their calls has escalated. Teachers are professionals who cannot continue surviving like beggars,” Masaraure said.
He said the unions also insisted that they would not supervise the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) examinations which are due to start next week, if government does not pay them invigilating allowances since they consider it an extra job.
On behalf of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), for which he is president, Masaraure claimed that 92% of their members did not report for duty yesterday to compel government to address their concerns.
“Congratulations to the teachers of Zimbabwe for once again defying the odds and embarking on a successful job action,” he said in a statement.
“Percentage attendance in schools dropped to an average of 57% across the country. 92% of the members of Artuz took heed of the call to withdraw labour. From the pool of Artuz membership, only school heads are in schools. The ongoing 12 days of action are also receiving massive support and endorsement from the nation at large.”
The Zimbabwe National Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Zinatu) said its members had resolved to join other teachers in the ongoing strike, following wide consultations.
“We are actually building up from our consultations with our general membership as leadership so we can concretise their resolutions as we also share our position with member unions. Our membership is the ultimate voice of the union that speaks louder than an individual opinion. Our members are incapacitated to report for duty and we remain so until government shows its commitment to improve our welfare,” Zinatu chief executive Manuel Nyawo said.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said only Artuz and Zinatu members failed to report for work, which was an insignificant number.
However, he said Primary and Secondary Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu was determined to improve the teachers’ welfare and urged teachers to be patient with her.
“As of Friday, we had 94,08% of teachers reporting for duty and that is very encouraging, with about 145 000 teachers in the country against Artuz (386) and Zinatu (50), who form a combined membership of 436 which is roughly 0,3% of the teacher establishment,” Ndoro said.
“Our reaction basically, as a ministry is that let us not get ahead of ourselves and do the best we can to offer quality, relevant and inclusive education to our learners in order to achieve Vision 2030. Our minister Ndlovu has repeatedly said one of her key priorities is to improve the welfare of our teachers. So, I urge members of the teaching fraternity to embrace the confidence shown by our minister about better days to come.”
Public Service minister Paul Mavima refused to comment on government’s plan to address the demands of the striking teachers.
“Teachers fall under the Primary and Secondary Education ministry, hence the ministry is better placed to respond to your questions,” Mavima said.
Other teachers unions like the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) said the coalition was essential.
Zimta secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said: “We might have different ideologies as unions, but if we are fighting for a common cause, that is to improve the welfare of our members, then we should unite and speak with one voice. Zimta has always been in support of unity with other teachers’ representatives and that is why we are part of the federation of education unions. We believe in unity to strengthen our call.”
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) also said it was mobilising for a “united front” of teachers to stop the continued “abuse” of teachers by Zimsec and government.
PTUZ wrote to the Zimsec board, notifying it that teachers would not invigilate the 2021 examinations if there was no agreement that they be get paid for the service.
“By copy of this letter we, therefore, do hereby inform you that if there are no such contracts between Zimsec and teachers by the time the examinations start, our members will not be able to take part in invigilation processes,” the PTUZ letter read.
“We do make this declaration knowing that the law is on our side, and that the only reason teachers previously invigilated your examinations was it erroneously appeared as part of their job description when in actual fact it was not, hence our rightful and legitimate demand to be paid for the services rendered.” PTUZ said teachers’ workload had also increased after the introduction of the continuous assessment learning activity, which means that everyone involved in examinations must be paid for their services.