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Zimbabwe Teachers Demand Empowerment Through Controversial Indigenization Program

Zimbabwean teachers are stepping up pressure on the government, demanding to be included in the country’s indigenization and economic empowerment program.

The teachers say since the cash-strapped government has failed to increase their salaries, it should, therefore, consider empowering them through the controversial policy being spearheaded by Indigenization Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association president Tendai Chikowore made the call Thursday at the union’s four-day annual conference in Bulawayo.

Chikowore said teachers want to know to what extent the government is going to spread the economic empowerment program to struggling civil servants.

But some critics say teachers should concentrate on teaching, demanding better and working conditions as well as equipped schools rather than asking to be considered for empowerment programs under a controversial law.

President of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Takavafira Zhou, told VOA that the ZIMTA demands were noble, but insufficiently thought out.

“Merely claiming to be included in the indigenization framework is a half-baked measure. We urge government to go back to basics; they must be able to pay their workers reasonable salaries above the poverty datum line.”

The union leader added: “Apart from these salaries then the government may also empower teachers by embarking on a number of projects that also benefit teachers such as owning mines and providing seed money to start businesses.”

Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe director Sydney Chisi said the indigenization and economic empowerment program is just “another ZANU-PF cash cow.”

“The teachers should take it upon themselves to look at issues of public policy; in terms of how natural resources are being used and how the equitability of that fund that is supposed to be given to teachers is being managed and by who," said Chisi.

“And demanding good governance, implementation and monitoring of public policy that is pro-poor and that is people centered.”

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee said the learning environment in many resettlement areas is a sorry state, raising concern for students attending schools in the new farming communities.

The Senate committee on millennium development goals found 701 primary schools countrywide that were not legally registered facing dire constraints.

Old farmhouses or tobacco barns are being used as classrooms while there’s no accommodation for teachers.

Officials say satellite schools suffer from scarcity of resources such as furniture, learning and teaching material.

Director Maxwell Rafomoyo with the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo the government needs to move with speed and address the issues affecting schools in the new resettlement areas.