As the World celebrates World Teachers Day, teachers in Zimbabwe are lamenting their working conditions which continue to deteriorate with the government not doing much to address their plight.
Commemorations to mark the World Teachers’ Day, also known as International Teachers Day, are held every year on October 5 to honour teachers and recognise their contributions to education and development.
Many events are organised on this day to emphasise the importance of teachers and learning and to raise the profile and increase the awareness and understanding of the teaching profession and its importance.
The theme for this year, commemorations held for the second time under the Covid-19 pandemic is “Teachers at the Heart of Education Recovery.”
Educators Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general, Tapedza Zhou, said the Teachers Day was a “mourning day” for them despite the important role they play in educating the nation.
“It (World Teachers Day) fails to cause anticipated celebrations, but brings about memories of betrayal and intrigue and hopelessness in the face of future,” decried Zhou.
“It’s a Mourning Day. This year’s World Teachers Day in Zimbabwe is just another day when teachers are reminded of their grim past and present.
He said their salaries, which were pegged at US$540 in 2018, have been falling, making it harder for them to meet their basic needs.
“Salaries dramatically fell to US$35 in 2020, were rejuvenated to US$200 by the Collective efforts of teachers through the Teachers Can’t Breathe Movement by Mid-2021, and yet are already deflating at an alarming hourly rate,” he said.
“It is well before the October payday, yet our salaries are already at around US$160.00. Not less than 60% of educators are enslaved to loan sharks, and there seems to be no solution in sight to break out of the loan cycle. Everywhere, the employer has replenished his weapons and is at the educator’s throat.”
He said teachers felt let down by the government which has failed to address their concerns over the years, urging unity within the profession.”
“Let’s own this battle for US$540 or we choose to die like paupers with no one to blame,” said.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said teachers have a workload owing to the government’s failure to adequately prepare for the schools opening post the Covid-19 lockdown period.
“It’s sad to note that the government continues to ignore teachers’ grievances,” bemoaned ARTUZ in a statement.
“Teacher’s salaries have been eroded to less than 50% of the Total Consumption Poverty Line (TCPL) due to inflation and the rise in cost of living and some of the demands by teachers are basic welfare issues like housing which has proven to be a great challenge especially for those stationed in rural areas who stay in subhuman conditions and are often exposed to risk due to the conditions they will be staying under.”
The union added: “These issues of welfare need to be urgently addressed and the union challenges the government to be innovative and receptive of other stakeholders’ ideas in resolving the current crisis. Teachers can only serve and be at the heart of education recovery if issues of their material concerns are addressed and they are adequately motivated.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Dr Takavafira Zhou said: “On this important day when we are mourning the demise of the status of teachers in Zimbabwe and under siege from Covid-19 pandemic. We also want to remind the government that it remains the biggest threat to the development quality of the public education system in the country.”
He said constantly threatening to dismiss teachers and failure to listen to their professional advice is a recipe for disaster.
“Engaging in constructive dialogue with teacher unions can ensure that reform initiatives are supported by the very people who have to implement them,” he said.
“A serious-minded government can draw on the knowledge and experience of thousands of teachers serving in every corner of the country, and devise smart policies that can resuscitate teachers’ leadership roles and intrinsically motivate them to play a vital role in the recovery of the education system and enhance development.”
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) said this year’s commemorations were held during trying times.
“The commemorations are taking place under depressing experiences of all times,” said the association in a statement.
“The teaching fraternity has lost erstwhile educators and unionists who succumbed to Covid-19. We pay special tribute to these departed colleagues and commiserate with all those who suffered the experiences of the pandemic. They were indeed in the frontline of Zimbabwe’s education survival and recovery.”
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology