Striking teachers have demanded an urgent meeting with President Emmerson Mnangagwa as tension between government and its employees over poor remuneration reaches boiling point, Business Times can report.
More than 90% of teachers and headmasters across the country have not been reporting for work since schools opened last week for the first term of the year.
“We can only return to work if we meet the President [Emmerson Mnangagwa] himself so that he can give us timelines on the payments of the US$520 a month,” the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe told Business Times on Tuesday this week.
“Without any meeting with the man himself (President Mnangagwa), teachers will remain in trenches. Teachers will not be bothered by docking of salaries and suspension as they stand for what is good. If it means expulsion for what is right, let it be.”
The move by teachers came after the government announced a 20% salary increment plus US$100 a month for all civil servants.
The government also promised to pay ZWL$20 000 per school term per child for three biological children, among other propositions.
As a result, they now want their salaries to be restored to a 2018 salary of about US$520 a month.
Currently, teachers are earning around ZWL$24 000 a month, which is about US$100 and headmasters are reportedly earning around ZWL$30 000 per month or US$130 a month. The government, however, has said it has no capacity to pay US$ salaries to its workers.
In his Monetary Policy Statement for 2022, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya said redollarisation of the economy was unsustainable as the country had insufficient foreign currency to back it up.
Last week, Primary and Secondary Education minister, Evelyn Ndlovu, said teachers that have not reported for work have been suspended for three months.
But teachers said they would only go back to classes if the government pegs their salaries at US$520 a month.
At a post Cabinet briefing, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa said stern action would be taken against the teachers.
“Cabinet noted with dismay the reported absenteeism by some teachers and headmasters. Of particular concern is the alleged barring of some teachers from attending to their work as well as attendance by some teachers without delivering lessons,” Mutsvangwa said.
“The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education has been instructed to take stern action in consultation with the chairman of the Public Service Commission and the Ministers of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development and the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.”
The panic in government has also triggered the administration to call for another National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) meeting, which is set for next week.
The NJNC comprises government and civil servants’ representative body, the Apex Council.
Yesterday, the teachers’ employer, the Public Service Commission (PSC) gave the striking teachers an ultimatum to report for work by February 22, a move that could escalate the friction between government and teachers.
Those who will fail to return to work, the PSC said, would be deemed to have resigned from service.
It said some teachers continue to absent themselves from work, with some reporting for duty but not teaching despite significant steps taken by the government to improve conditions of service, working with the Apex Council.
“This has had the effect of depriving learners of their inalienable right to education as well as prejudicing parents of their significant investment in their children’s education,” PSC said in a statement.
“This behaviour on the part of some teachers is all the more distressing in view of the fact that it is coming at a time when learners have already lost more than a month of learning in 2022 alone due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and were therefore looking forward to the opportunity to catch up with their studies.”
The PSC said such behaviour “cannot be tolerated as it will have a lasting, negative impact on an entire generation”.
“It is in this context that all teachers, deputy heads and heads of schools who do not report for duty by Tuesday February 22, 2022, will be deemed to have resigned from service. Those reporting for duty but not teaching will also be deemed to have resigned. All those who will have in that manner resigned and were occupying institutional accommodation are expected to vacate the same with immediate effect,” PSC said.
“Unemployed trained teachers, university and college graduates in sciences, engineering, technical, vocational areas and other disciplines who are interested in joining the teaching profession should ensure that they are registered at the nearest district education offices as the recruitment process shall begin soon after February 22, 2022. Those deemed to have resigned shall not be eligible for the recruitment.”
Majongwe, however, told Business Times that instead of threatening the educators, the government should find ways of paying teachers the US$520 a month.
This week, the school heads and teachers approached the High Court of Zimbabwe to challenge their suspension.
According to the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president, Obert Masaraure, the suspension of all teachers was lifted by the High Court yesterday.
Masaraure told Business Times that the teachers, however, remained ‘incapacitated’.
“The purported suspension was unconstitutional and a nullity. Teachers are waiting to be capacitated with pre-October 2018 salaries (US$520). Without addressing (this) there is no work to talk about.”
Earlier this week, the civil servants’ representative body, Apex Council chairperson, Cecilia Alexander, pleaded with the government to lift the suspension of teachers.
“…Our biggest plea is that we want the authorities to return the suspended teachers to get back to work.
“We will not sign any document or agree to anything until that is addressed,” Alexander said.