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Teachers Demand Dialogue Over Salaries Prior to Schools Opening

Teacher struggling to get tot the classroom

Teachers want to dialogue with their employer and other stakeholders to address their conditions and welfare issues particularly their low salaries ahead of the opening of schools.

“The government should restore the purchasing power of teachers salaries to pre-October 2018 level (i.e. 520-550 USD or its equivalence in RTGS). The government should never take this issue as nugatory because incapacitation among teachers is real. Only a miracle will see teachers reporting for duty if the government fails to address this issue,” teachers’ unions under the Federation of Zimbabwe Education Unions said in a statement yesterday.

They said the government should rectify the unjustified salary discrepancies currently prevailing between teachers and other government workers.

“Last time, junior soldiers earned more than 27000 RTGS while the entry point for teachers is slightly above 14000 RTGS. This is not to say 27000 RTGS for soldiers is enough, but that difference is a sure ingredient for industrial disharmony.”

The government is being urged to put in place enough Covid-19 abatements to ensure the safety of teachers, learners, and ancillary staff. The teachers said Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) as advised by World Health Organization (WHO) should be followed religiously and there should be no room for shortcuts under the threatening pandemic which has proved that it can mutate into different variants.

“Vaccination of teachers should be done before schools open. This should be done on a willing basis and never be used to deprive those who choose otherwise of any opportunities or services. All teachers, learners, and ancillary staff should be tested for Covid-19 before schools are allowed to open.

“Opening of schools should be shelved until ZIMSEC marking exercise is over since most secondary school teachers will be away between 06 March and 27 March 2021. This will ensure that schools will have enough manpower to monitor learners and enforce social distancing when they eventually open.”

The government has since unilaterally declared that schools will open on the 15th of March 2021 for exam classes with the exam teachers reporting for duty on the 10th of March while non-exam classes will open on 22 March 2021 and their teachers expected at their respective stations on the 17th of March.

The government is being encouraged to urgently engage teachers’ unions in order to come up with an agreed and workable roadmap that will guarantee quality public education. Negotiations under the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) and with Apex Council have since proved to be a waste of time and resources at the expense of teachers and learners.

Teachers’ unions under FOZEU said they are ready to meet the government even at midnight.

“The sooner government engages teachers’ unions as key stakeholders, the better for our education system and the nation at large. The sooner the government officials realise that bellowing instructions from a well-ventilated and spacious office is one issue while implementation of government policies by teachers is another, the better for the development of this great nation.”

They said the government should avail a period of strategic engagement and consultations to ensure that no stoppages will occur once schools open.

Speaking to state media in Harare yesterday, Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe Secretary General Raymond Majongwe said it was of paramount importance to first consider what is safe for children and the nation at large.

“Let’s engage and make sure that teachers, government, and other stakeholders come to sit on the table and say what is best for the future and our kids and what is best for the country because simply saying get prepared and do nothing will also lead to more chaos,” Majongwe said.

He added that teachers cannot travel to their station and can’t even send their kids to schools which needs to be addressed first.

“Some of the teachers who reside in rural areas can not travel to their stations which means there is a need to address the issue of travelling, welfare and make sure that teachers are happy.”

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende