BY FARAI MATIASHE
TEACHERS have threatened to withdraw their labour when schools open for the third term next month to force government to pay them in United States dollars or the equivalent of US$550 at the interbank rate, among other demands.
The teachers have also told the Zimbabwe School Examination Council that the educators will only invigilate in the Grade Seven, O and A Level final examinations after they are paid invigilation allowances.
“Schools will remain closed until (our) demands are met. Let’s prepare for an indefinite closure of schools until our demands are met. Let the schools open while they are closed,” Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said in a statement on Monday.
“That the government has taken this long before addressing our legitimate demands calls for greater coordination, unity of purpose, collectivity of action, dexterity, vigilance and resilience.”
He said it had been made crystal clear that the government was not willing to give in to their demands through dialogue.
“We cannot be treated as if we are of no account. When we spoke, government did not listen. It’s now time to act and our actions must speak louder than words,” Zhou said.
“The message is clear that government is arrogant and only understands the language of industrial action and not negotiation and worse still collective bargaining,” Zhou said, adding that there was need to command the beast in them and put an end to abuse by government.
In the past, government offered the teachers a cushioning allowance, but it has since been devalued as the local currency, introduced recently by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, is losing value against its benchmark greenback. Charging that the previous cushion was meant to deceive the teachers, he added: “Our demands are the modest (that is) restoration of the purchasing power of our salaries to the pre-inflationary US$550, rescue package in US dollar, non-payment of tuition fees for three children for every teacher and free access to stands for accommodation purposes.”
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said teachers will not report for work next term until their grievances are met. “The protests for a living wage are ongoing. This Friday we will be protesting at Finance ministry offices in a protest dubbed Pay Day Funeral. We closed the second term early on 22 July 2019 and we will not be opening until our grievances are addressed,” he said.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association president Richard Gundane said teachers are incapacitated.
“Teachers are seriously incapacitated as a result of runaway prices in the wake of salaries that are way below the poverty datum line. The delayed implementation of a cost of living adjustment coupled with a budget that does not give any hope of a living wage will occasion the failure of the majority of teachers not to go to work in the third term,” he said.
Gundane said so far resignations and absenteeism attributed to incapacitation are haunting the education system and urgent action was required on the part of government to avert a crisis during the public examinations period that begins in October. But Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima told NewsDay that discussions were underway between civil servants’ representatives and the government.
“The President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) has promised to address some of their issues. Ncube has also promised to address their grievances. So, I do not see why teachers would want to go on an industrial action,” he said.