With national elections expected sometime this year, some teachers say it is essential for the government to take measures that will help protect them, especially those in the rural areas; to ensure they do not become victims of political violence as has happened during previous polls.
The teachers’ sentiments come after Education Minister David Coltart’s pronouncements during a recent tour of schools in the Midlands province’s Silobela district.
Responding to a question on what measures his ministry is taking to protect teachers from political violence, Coltart said “politics must stay out of schools”.
He revealed that government is finalizing a raft of regulations that will help ensure teachers are protected.
While welcoming the move, Obert Masararure, a teacher at Sibangani Secondary School in Silobela told VOA that government must walk the talk as making regulations that are not enforced would still leave teachers vulnerable.
“We really welcome such a move and we hope it is not just something that is put on paper and not be fully implemented because in Zimbabwe we now have a history of things that were written down and were never followed up, said Masaraure.
He said though the government mad agreements in the GPA there were still to be fulfilled.
Another teacher, who asked not to be named for fear of victimization, also welcomed the new regulations aimed at protecting teachers from being targets of political victimization and harassment.
He urged the government to implement the regulations immediately, adding “that one is a positive development but we are saying if they can fine-tune it and quickly implement it that would benefit the nation.”
In past elections, scores of teachers in various localities across the country have fallen to political violence with some of them being maimed or killed and others having to flee from their schools.
Masaraure says the government must also improve the living conditions for the country’s teachers, especially those in the rural areas.
“If you look at the salaries of teachers and other civil servants, they remain pathetic. But the plight of the rural teacher is much worse than most of these civil servants; it’s like by choosing to be a rural teacher you become one of the most disadvantaged people because you are not only separated from your family but from the world itself as you cannot access the internet; you cannot have electricity; you cannot have clean water.
Masaraure said at the end of the day what government can only give you as rural allowance is pathetic, at only $12.
Minister Coltart said he is aware of the problems that rural teachers face. He said his ministry is doing all it can to change things on the ground as it recognizes that teachers are the most important resource in a nation’s education system.
“Unfortunately we have allowed the status of teachers to drop that’s why we see our teacher-training colleges not attracting the brightest brains out of our high schools; that has to change,” said Coltart
He added if the ministry has a vision for a prosperous nation, the key would be in the education sector and by revitalizing the status of teachers
During the Silobela visit Coltart also announced the start of the second phase of the Education Transition Fund which focuses on rehabilitation and construction of school infrastructure.
The program with a $60 million sponsorship from UNICEF began this week with a pilot project in Goromonzi district just outside Harare and is expected to be rolled out to the rest of the country next year.