The long winter which we predicted at the beginning of second term has assumed permanency in the education sector. Our second term never really kicked off, learning was erratic and there seem to be no hope of resolving the crisis bedeviling our sector. The government which authored the obtaining crisis is still arrogantly pursuing the same austerity measures which are corroding social service delivery. Our only source of hope is in the revolutionary spirit which has engulfed our teaching community. The teachers are in a fighting mode and our employer is in panic mode.
The never ending winter
The erosion of teacher salaries from around US$ 500 to the current US$ 30 relegated teachers to extreme poverty subsequently compromising their capacity to deliver quality service. This compounded onto the other traditional challenges such as infrastructure deficits, inadequacy/unavailability of learning materials and high teacher learner ratio among others. Our education sector is in distress.
The salary erosion triggered a prolonged labour dispute between teachers and their employer. For the better part of the term, teachers were either on strike or threatening to embark on one. Learners were therefore either left unattended or partly attended to by a highly demoralized teaching personnel. If the value of our salaries is not restored our education will remain trapped in this Siberia.
Whilst our learning ecosystem was battling with these challenges, the custodians of the sector were embezzling funds meant for procuring learning material and further abusing scarce resources in a ZIMSEC printing scam. According to the Auditor General report US$ 6 million meant for procuring text books for the new curriculum was diverted. US$ 2 million was blown by ZIMSEC outsourcing printing facilities leaving their own machines idle.
The same corruption dominated the salary negotiations championed by the highly discredited and illegal APEX council. The APEX council consistently demobilized teacher protests by mischievously lying that they were on the verge of bagging a new salary deal. The government’s sweetheart Unions representing teachers in APEX went a step further and assumed Monica Mutsvangwa’s role of being government spokesperson. After wining and dining with the Head of State at an expensive junket hosted at State house, the Union leaders came out celebrating the scrapping of the multi-currency system. They told all who cared to listen that the salary crisis had been resolved through the scrapping of the multi-currency regime. This tomfoolery was credible evidence that these leaders had been coopted and had abandoned the workers to endure an incessant winter.
Our hope for summer
Far away from the APEX drama teachers were being harassed, arrested, abducted, tortured and imprisoned for legitimately demanding a living wage. Teachers were in real combat for a living wage ignoring the APEX child play. The 3-5 June strike and the 22 July early schools closure will go down in history as teacher driven initiatives in pursuit of labour justice. The heavy handedness response of the state and the cheering on of government sweetheart Unions never deterred the teachers from organizing for action. A lot of teachers got Unionized this term and thousands dumped the failed state sponsored projects which pretend to be Unions.
The revolutionary fire which is sweeping across our schools gives us hope, that one day the teacher’s voice shall prevail. The notion that teachers are cowards has been defied and will forever to be defied.
We are excited that teachers are now engaging in self-help projects to cushion themselves from the obtaining socio-economic crisis. This empowerment drive will also help embolden the teacher’s voice and defeat the modern day slavery we face.
Hoping for summer will not birth it. We should take practical actions to hasten the dawn of summer in our life time. We will take the following practical steps:
- Relentless Civil disobedience demanding a living wage from our employer
- Pushing for labour law reform as a means of disbanding the illegal APEX council and enhancing compliance with labour rights enshrined in section 65 of Zimbabwe’s constitution
- Fight corruption with all our mighty
- Partner with progressive local organizations and solicit regional and international solidarity from progressive forces
- Enrich efficiency, transparency, accountability, democracy, servant leadership and inclusivity in the running of our Union
- Study groups on Unionism to be set up in all our districts to enhance our appreciation of the political economy and our labour rights
- Pooling our little resources together and embark on income generating projects in our communities
- Remain loyal to nonviolent actions in pursuit of a living wage
- Recruit more teachers to join their struggle for a living wage
- Provide concrete solidarity to all our Cdes who are victimized as they pursue the struggle for labour justice
We will not subcontract our struggle to a second part, together we will roll up our sleeves and construct a summer for ourselves.
Source: Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)