Teachers in Zimbabwe, starting on October 05, joined their counterparts all over the world in commemorating World Teachers’ Day while they are in the midst of a paralysing strike over abysmally poor salaries which they say have reduced them into “vagabonds”.
The day, which is annually observed on October 05, is this year being celebrated virtually over an eight-day period from October 05 to October 12 due to the Covid-19 global pandemic that has disrupted the rhythm of the world for more than six months.
The event is going under the theme, “Teachers: Leading in Crisis, Re-imagining the Future”, with the embattled Zimbabwean teachers pleading with the government, their employer, for the restoration of a dignified wage.
Since schools re-opened for examination classes on September 28, teachers have been on indefinite strike over poor remuneration and depressing working conditions. The teachers, who are demanding that their salaries be hiked to about US$550 from RTGS 3800 (US$30 equivalent), have rejected off-hand a 40 percent cost of living adjustment offered by the government.
In a statement Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) accused the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa of reducing them to vagabonds.
“The teachers have been reduced to vagabonds by the Second Republic that promised too much, but delivered very little so far for teachers,” charged the Raymond Majongwe-led union, one of the nine teacher unions in Zimbabwe.
The union called for the restoration of their October 2018 salaries as it had been “clandestinely” reduced.
“What government should know is that teachers are not calling for salary increase, but restoration of their salaries that were clandestinely reduced from US$550 to the current equivalent of US$35. It is our clarion call to government to restore value of teachers’ salaries; prioritisation of sector specific allowances, which were once agreed upon in 2019,” said PTUZ.
The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) said whilst teachers across the globe celebrate World Teachers’ Day in style, it is a sad story for the Zimbabwean teacher who has been financially incapacitated to work for quite some time.
“Because teachers have been subsidising the employer for too long, their failure to attend to their daily duties has not been surprising for many. It is now in the employers’ best interest to source funding and pay teachers salaries that are denominated in United States dollars,” ZIMTA said in a statement.
“Teacher incapacitation in general terms means that the usually passionate educator, has been depressed and underpaid, to a point of making them incapable of delivering the much needed quality teaching that should lead to progressive, all rounded citizens.”
Obert Masaraure president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said this year’s commemorations come at a time the profession is in a crisis.
“Teacher remuneration is one fundamental issue which should be dealt with. As we commemorate the day we are dialoguing around ways of ensuring that we mount pressure on our Government to be able to pay our teachers a living wage and we are simply demanding the restoration of our USD520 which we used to earn,” said Masaraure.
In a solidarity message, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) implored the government of Zimbabwe to prove its sincerity in as far as improving the welfare of teachers is concerned.
“We are deeply concerned that despite their invaluable services, teachers continue to earn far below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) in a highly inflationary environment while the government continues to pay lip service to the urgent need to address the plight of teachers,” the coalition said.
It added that teachers continue to bear the brunt of a free-falling economy and a battered local currency while the government has on several occasions responded with brute force to genuine calls for a living wage by teacher unions.
“This has resulted in arrests, torture and abduction of trade union leaders while some have been forced to flee their work stations, especially in rural areas,” it said.