Teachers Who ‘Can’t Afford Underwear’ Claim Incapacitation As Schools Open

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Zimbabwe’s nine teacher unions remain intransigent that their members will not be reporting for duty even after schools opened on September 28, until the government pegs their salaries in United States dollars.

The nine teacher unions that met in Harare on September 22 unanimously agreed to go on strike, arguing that the average teacher salary of RTGS 3800 (US$30 equivalent) is too low for their members to survive on.

According to media reports, more than 90 percent of the country’s teachers have headed this unanimous call by their unions.

“A teacher in Murehwa, how does he come to school? The RTGS 3800 that he was paid is not even enough for him to buy underwear for himself and his wife and you want her to come and stand in front of kids without wearing underwear. That is not possible,” said Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) leader Raymond Majongwe.

“We are totally incapacitated to report for duty. Transporters want USDs. We are not even protesting. We are simply saying we are incapacitated to turn up for duty,” Majongwe added,

Zimbabwe National Teachers Union (ZINATU) CEO Emmanuel Nyawo in his remarks accused Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema of being arrogant.

He urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to remove him from being a minister.

“I even wrote to his inbox and said can you please remove us this Minister. We have got a minister who is not worthy of that office,” Nyawo said.

In a joint statement, the umbrella Teachers Unions in Zimbabwe, which brings together all teacher bodies in Zimbabwe that include Majongwe’s Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Teachers Association, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and six others, the educators said the economy had dollarised and so should their salaries.

Part of the statement read: “Perturbed that government has totally ignored the welfare of teachers as evidenced by salaries that were received by teachers in September, aware that the total consumption poverty line for a family of five is now above $17 244 as given by ZimStat, surprised by the continued salary discrepancies between teachers and the other civil servants, especially the uniformed forces,”

“We, the undersigned Teacher Unions in Zimbabwe, now, therefore, urge the government to:

“Urgently expedite consultations with all teachers’ unions with a view to sharing ideas on the way forward before the opening of schools. This is informed by the fact that teachers’ unions are a key stakeholder in the education sector and represent the very people who are implementers of government policies; restore the purchasing power parity of teachers’ salaries pegged at US$500 to US$550.”

The teachers also demanded education sector-specific allowances that are commensurate with their responsibilities and status and a COVID-19 allowance that is a product of negotiations or agreement between employer and employees.

“If schools reopen during this COVID-19 period, it entails that teachers will be frontline workers who deserve a meaningful COVID-19 allowance.”

The statement further read: “Indeed, there is nothing as dangerous as having under-paid, undernourished, under-resourced and demotivated teachers in the classrooms because teachers are in essence role models of their communities and society and help to shape the future of individuals, society and the country. It is only well-paid, healthy, motivated, innovative and dynamic teachers that can fulfill this vital cog of sustainable development.”

The development is set to put the teachers on a collision course with government which has reiterated that schools will open without fail.

This comes at a time when Zimbabwe is being buffeted by its worst economic crisis in over a decade, including scarcity of basics like mealie meal, fuel and electricity.

Prices of basic goods and transport gallop every week as the value of the Zimbabwean dollar continues to tumble, pushing official annual inflation to more than 1000 percent as analysts allude.

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