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Zimbabwe Teachers Boycott Classes Over Low Pay

FILE: Schoolchildren wait to enter their school in Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday Sept, 28, 2020. Zimbabwe schools have reopened in phases, but with smaller number of pupils, more teachers and other related measures to enable children to resume their education withou

Zimbabweans teachers boycotted classes today, demanding salary increases of more than US$500 each amid claims by the government that some of them reported for duty.

In a statement, Raymond Majongwe of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe said all teachers are too incapacitated to attend classes.

“Our membership cannot be expected to comply with the directive to reopen schools now, before the government has financially capacitated them. Therefore, the PTUZ position, as advised by its members, is that teachers are not ready for the reopening of school.

“What they expect is the announcement that government has reviewed their salaries with effect from January 2022. It does not make sense that the government is content to remunerate its employees with about a quarter of the consumer basket, which as of December 2021 stood at about $72,000. None of our members managed to meet their very basic expenses with the measly amount they received as salaries on 18th January, 2022. Why anyone believes teachers managed to spare anything from that amount so they can report for duty on 7 February, 2022 beats us.”

Majongwe said teachers are also unable to send their own children to school.

“Our members are pauperized to the extent that none of them, with the money paid to them on 18th January, is able to pay for school or college fees for their dependents. It does not make sense that government expects our members to teach other people’s children while ours are at home. No teacher can send their children or dependents to boarding schools, which even puts those teaching there in a quandary.”

Most teachers’ unions have joined the nationwide strike being condemned by the government.

In a tweet, information secretary, Nick Mangwana, said some teachers attended classes despite the call for industrial action.

Most schools in the country opened for all classes with no teachers and school heads quickly sent children back home, according to an assessment made by VOA Zimbabwe Service.

Manyame school teacher, Rosten Mutapwa, said teachers will not be cowed to report for duty due to incapacitation.

"Government should learn to engage its workers rather than to be dictatorial when they ask for salary increases. We are incapacitated," said Mutapwa.

PTUZ chairperson, Takavafira Zhou, said teachers would only go back to work only when government seriously considers paying its workers in United States dollars, improves benefits and provides Personnel Protective Equipment (PPEs) to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Some schools in Mashonaland West were being manned by school heads despite warnings last week by Zimbabwe National Union of Schools Heads that school heads won’t be at work also due to incapacitation.

When contacted for comment, Education Ministry spokesperson, Taungana Ndoro, said teachers’ attendance on the first day was 60 percent.

"It's not unusual that not all teachers attend school on the first day because of many reasons. About 60% attended school mostly from rural schools," said Ndoro.

But on his Twitter account, Mangwana said, "Nationally some schools have 100% teacher and student attendance while some have poor teacher attendance on the first day of opening."

Majongwe said, “While it was expected that government would urgently solve the issue of teacher remuneration, it is clear that government does not take the issue of salary negotiations as a priority. Only one round of talks has been held, about three weeks ago, and the feedback given showed that the talks were nothing to write home about … The ball is in the government’s court.”

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