On Monday, 07 February 2022, schoolchildren return to school in droves in anticipation of yet another school term which may be blighted by the errant CORONAVIRUS and the resumption of collective job action by the teachers who want their salaries to be raised significantly and more importantly to be given the greenback rather than the moribund Zimdollar which has lost its gloss in recent years.
For the majority of teachers, the big question is: to teach or not to teach?
History teachers know of a certain Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief in the 1930s and 1940s. Of late, one of the spokespersons of the ministry has persistently assured the nation that teachers will go to school and teach since they are patriotic. This patronizing of the classroom practitioners has irked the flag bearers of the teaching profession who feel that he has to be proactive in his job.
Social media has been abuzz with messages of solidarity with the teacher while other handles have lambasted the teacher whom they accuse of double dipping as she is teaching extra lessons and getting the salary without going to work. Is this an honest assessment of the situation on the ground?
Other watchers have blamed teachers for allowing themselves to be used by politicians citing the long running rivalry between ZIMTA and PTUZ as being running dogs of the ruling party and the opposition party respectively. These armchair critics are shooting in the dark. Working conditions for teachers have become so sour that most intelligent young men and women shun the profession and colleges have to literally beg for new applicants to fill lecture theatres as freshmen.
Civil servants, the bulk of whom are teachers, deserve better. These are the cogs of the bureaucracy and telling them that they do not produce and hence must not ask for a salary commensurate with their experience and qualifications is similar to calling your parents useless because they can no longer run after you and catch you after you have disobeyed them. Without teachers, Zimbabwe as we know it, could never have reached the dizzy heights where in almost every pocket of the earth, a Zimbabwean is domiciled there.
If teachers do go and teach, they would be regarded as spineless by generations to come and as ‘’the cowards of the county’’ as Kenny Rodgers famously crooned. The paltry $20 000 they earn in RTGS form can barely make one teacher without a family, survive. For the government to claim that it has been benevolent enough to the teacher by giving him access to US$75 hard cash is a joke. First, they are given US$70 and the US$5 is forfeited by the bank while they continue to wallow in poverty as the prices continue skyrocketing like a runaway jury.
On average, day schools are expected to charge between 10 000 RTGS and 20 000RTGS and boarding schools range from RTGS $60 000 to RTGS $90 000. Do you think teachers at these ‘Ivy League’ schools will be happy to teach when they cannot send their children to the very same schools branded as racists and obnoxious?
In unity, there is strength. If one retires today, after serving 45 years of his life to the teaching cause and then get a measly $32 000 RTGS, what do you think goes through the mind? Betrayed! This is what the bureaucracy has done to break the spirit of the teacher who has unstintingly worked for the government but his employer folds his hand and says, ‘’he must find his own way back home.’’
Government talks about non-monetary incentives which it purports are willing to be handed to teachers; for the past three years, it has talked about them and so far nothing has materialized. Teachers also want to see their children get degrees but with the teary salaries they get, it is a pie in the sky for a huge number of them.
Should teachers go and teach on Monday under the prevailing conditions?
On the government’s side, it has stuck to its guns. Really? When they see teachers dressed formally, they think it is a matter of course. It’s by habit that a teacher wears formal clothes and he achieves this by ‘hustling’ and you think that that person will give undivided attention to the teaching profession? An ancient saying popularized by Jesus is still true today as it was thousands of years ago: it is not possible to serve two masters.
Teachers used to say their fields are in TM and OK supermarkets and they were true proponents of division of labour. These days, teachers have a piece of land close to where they teach for them to supplement their food and income. Do you think they will go to school and teach on Monday?
Your answer is as good as mine.
They say teachers are lazy and dance according to the tune of the opposition. Hogwash. Should the propaganda of Ian Smith come back to haunt us? Whites used to say the militants in the bush were terrorists and Africans must not take heed of their reasons for fighting the regime. History is repeating itself. Teachers have been branded the enemy of the state for daring an Oliver Twist-may you please give me more food?
To teach or not to teach, is the question. Teachers are parents as well and they feel the pain of not teaching but they, too, want their children to learn implying they have to fork out the fees for their children as well.
While the economy may be imploding, everyone must make sacrifices. Teachers and other civil servants deserve decent salaries. ZIMSTAT says the PDL is at $48 000 and this is a government agency but one has the audacity of saying teachers are a mad bunch and should avail their services this coming Monday.
It remains to be seen whether teachers would come in their thousands to teach after schools are opened on Monday. Fear is pervasive. Unity has to conquer and dialogue should be given a chance when both sides are willing to compromise.