Teachers have indicated that they may be unable to return to work once schools open next week due to heightened levels of incapacitation.
Since January last year, teachers have raised concerns about their degrading experiences caused by poor wages while complaining that authorities possessed a ‘halfhearted’ approach to meaningful dialogue.
In an interview with CITE, Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), Richard Gundane, confirmed the plight of teachers had worsened, rendering them unable to carry out their duties.
“Teachers are worse off now in January than they were when schools closed in December and given this situation the majority of teachers may be unable to go to work,” he said.
Gundane who heads the largest teacher trade union in Zimbabwe said teacher incapacitation heightened by December 2019 and was characterised by diminished earnings that depleted their savings.
“We have a meeting tomorrow (Friday) where the government called teachers and other civil servants to discuss the way forward. The situation is bad, clearly, teachers have been incapacitated since 2019 and this worsened through the festive period to now, as prices continuously went up,” he said.
The ZIMTA leader pointed out that those who will manage to go work either stayed within the schools or close to them.
“But they will also not be in a position to carry out their work due to different economic pressures,” Gundane quipped.
Teachers are demanding to be paid salaries that are equal to the US dollar market rate.
“Teachers’ salaries must be aligned to the US dollars they used to receive and must be pegged at the interbank rate. Tomorrow’s meeting must be one of comfort, where the government says it will increase the salaries of teachers,” said the ZIMTA president.
If the government fails to listen, Gundane warned the country’s education sector would continue to deteriorate.
“Since 2019, teachers have been depending financially on their siblings or partners and they can’t do that anymore because the situation is hard on everybody,” he said.
Gundane also warned that schools could shut down this year as experienced in yesteryears.
“This happened in 2007 and 2008 where gradually, the schools closed down and learners even stopped going to school because teachers were absent,” the ZIMTA leader recalled.
He added it was sad that teachers could not even afford to pay school fees for their own children.
“Some teachers were even unable to secure places for Grade one and Form one. Can you imagine a situation where teachers go to work while they leave their children at home,” he said.
If the government fails to increase remunerations, teachers would find something else to do during the time they ought to be in school, Gundane added.
“They will resort to selling on streets and perhaps finance one day where they can go to work yet in all other days be somewhere else. We are in a desperate situation.”
Amalgamated Rural Teachers of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president, Obert Masaraure, weighed in and bluntly said teachers were not going to report for duty.
“They are severely incapacitated and feel insulted by the arrogance of the government who refuse to pay teachers according to the interbank rate,” he said.
As of the meeting to be held Friday with the government, Masaruare claimed those had “never produced anything but just pity parties where authorities confessed they had no money.”
He said teachers deserved respect and needed to put food on their tables.
“We don’t want to pretend to be teaching when we are destroying learners’ minds. If the government doesn’t want to support the education sector, they can do what they want but we want to protect the integrity of the teaching profession. Therefore we abstain from teaching until our interests and that of the learners are put forward,” said the ARTUZ leader.