Thabela Sentiments on Teachers Borrowing Money Torch Storm

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary School, Tumisang Thabela, torched a storm when she said teachers who have not gone to work should borrow money for them to report for duty. She said this after noting that teacher attendance in schools across the country was 70 percent with a few yet to report for duty Tuesday. Thabela ‘joked’ the education ministry expected that by next week, there would be more teachers in schools, as teachers would have borrowed enough money to travel.

However her sentiments did not sit well with teacher associations who accused Thabela of “lying” saying teacher attendance was way below 70 percent and secondly reprimanded her for tasteless statements that made a mockery of civil servants’ poor salaries. The general population also expressed shock at how the country’s leadership lacked compassion for peoples’ daily struggles

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) noted with deep concern and utter shock, what they described as “lies being peddled by a high ranking government official.”

“Madam Thabela, blatantly lied through her teeth to the nation and indeed to herself by conjuring up fictitious figures on teacher attendance. Her 70 percent attendance figure is not only utopian but is a reflection of the deep rot in the Government that is exhibiting its true colours of being untrustworthy with facts and figures,” said ARTUZ’s information desk. The government is lying to create a picture of a normal environment when the country is burning and teachers are seriously incapacitated to go to work, a point government made to ignore and only resurface to hoodwink the nation. The rural teachers Union noted they sought to set the record straight and call the Permanent Secretary to order and in the process assist Thabela’s office convey the proper statistics to the country. Teacher attendance across the entire nation has been below 35 percent with most provinces and schools in distant areas recording a zero percent attendance in the first week due to the unavailability of funds to travel to work in light of teacher incapacitation due to the paltry and meagre remuneration they receive.

“In this era of information technology where people can easily combine facts in a space of a few minutes, the Permanent Secretary wishes to treat us as if we are still in the Stone Age.”

ARTUZ said Thabela’s statements on borrowing exposed the government’s incompetence and lack of empathy for the “long suffering” teachers. “ This would have been funny and comical had the situation that teachers are in at the moment was not dire and tragic, when the solution should be restoring teacher dignity through improved salaries the government has chosen to further humiliate and degrade teachers by suggesting they engage the services of loan sharks,” said the rural teachers.

“The passion of teachers to teach should be accompanied by adequate motivation, now an average family requires 41 000 RTGS to survive monthly and yet salaries are less than two thirds of that total.“ A clueless and heartless government encouraging its workers to live and work in constant debt is not only insulting but a pity of the highest order.”

ARTUZ said no teacher will attend work when the working environment is worse than those of sweatshops, when the remuneration is pathetic and the reaction from the government is one of “no care or concern.” “They should restore the US$540 salary and make working conditions more flexible and the more they continue to behave like thugs, the more teachers stand to resist and defy, for teachers are not slaves and we urge the Permanent Secretary to grow a conscience with a pinch of common sense,” said the association.

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe on its official twitter account said: “The permanent secretary is a lady we highly respect, but on this one she is offside. Our members are not creditworthy, and as we speak, nobody is really willing to lend money to our members. If they borrow they won’t be able to return the money. Pay US$540.”

PTUZ president, Dr Takavafira Zhou, also lamented how demeaning the Permanent Secretary’s statements were. “Mrs Thabela was a brilliant Provincial Education Director in Matabeleland South but her judgement has been deteriorating since becoming Permanent Secretary. Recently, she mocked and laughed at incapacitated teachers, retorting that she hoped they would borrow in order to report for work. Such arrogance is uncalled for and condemnable,” he said on his twitter.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology

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