By Shingirai Vambe
School going children have suffered another setback, first with Cyclone Idai in some parts of the country, seconded by Covid-19 pandemic which has affected the country and globally and now incapacitation of teachers.
Today it’s the second day, learners going to school despite teachers in Zimbabwe raising incapacitation challenges, having taken their employer, the government to task by fulfilling their word, of not able to report for work.
Teachers and all civil servants in the country are earning not more than $30 000 Zimbabwe dollars, equivalent to between USD $80-$100 which is not enough to meet monthly demands of a standard family of 5, with school going children.
Teachers Unions told Post On Sunday that they have since alerted government before schools were opened that their members have presented a case of incapacitation and they will not be able to report for work.
Monday morning some teachers failed to report for duty, a move that has triggered tension between teachers and their employer.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Permanent Secretary, Tumisang Thabela, yesterday (Tuesday) issued a chilling circular instructing all Provincial Directors (PEDs) and District Schools Inspectors (DSIs) to take disciplinary action and to suspend teachers who didn’t report for duty on the day of opening.
The letter reads, “It has come to the attention of the permanent secretary of Primary and Secondary Education that some officials did not report for duty when schools opened on Monday February 7 2022 as per the school calendar.
This is unwarranted conduct deprived leaners of their right to education as enshrined in section 75 and 81 of the constitution of Zimbabwe,” Thabela said.
In that vein, she gave a directive that heads of offices should take urgent action to charge and suspend members who did not report for duty as well as PEDs giving daily updates on the handling of these cases.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Secretary General, Raymond Majongwe told this publication that the ministry and government are making life difficult for the learner.
“Issues raised by teachers are very legitimate, if they give us what we are asking, we can even teach up to Am. If they want to suspend our members, let them do so, there is no difference every person including myself is struggling in Zimbabwe,” said Majongwe.
Later in the evening, Finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister, Paul Mavhima and the Education minister, Evelyn Ndlovu went live on television during the news hour to break the news of offers and adjustment that government had done to its employees.
These adjustments include duty free importation of cars, none payment of fees for a teaching family to a maximum of 3 children getting not more than ZWL $20 000 each as school fees among other offers.
Teachers have today February 9 2022 rejected the offer demanding their initial April 2018 salary of USD $540.
Secretary for research at PTUZ Josiphat Gwezhira said the 20% that they hear in the media is nothing.
“It’s just rumors we are hearing, government hasn’t reached out to us even with its offers. It should come down to its employees and discuss, we are not on strike but incapacitated to go to work, I don’t have bus fare,” he said.
“Government is not serious, it went to the public without agreeing with relevant stakeholders, then start making promises. I can’t go to the supermarket and tell them I will come and pay in March, I can’t go to a fuel station and tell them I will pay end of month, as usual Mthuli plays with words, there isn’t much to that offer it’s the same amount we are saying it’s not enough, “added Gwezhira.
Former minister of education, David Coltart told Post on Sunday that he was in sympathy with the Permanent Secretary of Education Mrs Thabela, adding that she is a good person who was one of education directors when he was minister.
“This is an empty threat, teachers are earning hardly anything, just as good as a vendor than as a teacher, and if they are threatened of a loss to their salary, it will make no difference to their lives.
The way to resolve this crisis is not through threats, when I became minister in 2009, majority of teachers were failing to get to their stations, and i had to meet with the minister of finance and Unions, government must eat a humble pie and stop threating and detaining Union leaders; the minister of finance must be involved and stop talking about his ridiculers surplus, said Coltart.
“Teachers must be paid a viable wage, deal with corruption so that money is made available, that is the only way to restore professionalism and moral in the education sector,” added Coltart.
Amalgamated teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) Secretary General, Robson Chere said they are not surprised with all what government is doing and they are not moved.
“It was predictable that government will start coming up with threats through the relevant ministry, it’s a reality that teachers are incapacitated, to us that piece of paper is like a toilet paper, it won’t hold any value because it is not addressing the issues that are leading teachers to be in class rooms.
The no work no pay principle is of no paramount importance and will challenge that because at the moment teachers are getting paltry salaries, so we can’t report for duty,” said Chere.
Today, February 9 2022, more teachers decided not to report for duty and in Makoni district, parents with day scholars were called to pick up their children before 10am as there was no one to attend to them.