TEACHERS have vowed to press on with their industrial action after talks with the government collapsed yesterday as they also complained bitterly over alleged favouritism towards the army and police.
BY MOSES MATENGA/HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, who was supposed to be part of the meeting, was conspicuous by his absence, while Public Service minister Paul Mavima said Cabinet would look into the matter in today’s meeting.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema was also in attendance.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu said there was no progress and the meeting was turned into a “talking and listening session”.
“Only a capacitating salary can bring back teachers to the classroom,” he said after the meeting.
“No progress was made. It turned out to be a talking and listening exercise, with government promising to take the workers’ grievances to Cabinet (today).”
Schools reopened last Monday for examination classes, but most teachers have refused to go back to work citing incapacitation.
This forced Mathema last week to announce that he had set up a reserve force of 25 000 temporary teachers to replace the striking teachers and prepare examination classes for finals that are due in December.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takafira Zhou, whose organisation also attended yesterday’s meeting, said the indaba “was a waste of time”.
“It was a wasted day and sad as it came on World Teachers Day,” Zhou said.
“The minister had nothing to offer except the same old story that Cabinet is meeting tomorrow (today) and will look into the matter.”
He said what was more insulting was that other civil servants, including soldiers and police, were getting over $20 000 a month while teachers were getting a paltry $3 500.
He said it was not practical to serve children who would be paying more than $30 000 in school fees while their own children could not afford that.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) spokesperson Nation Mudzitirwa said there was nothing positive from their meeting with government and, therefore, the teachers remained incapacitated.
“Nothing came out. We still maintain our stance that we are incapacitated,” he said.
In a joint statement after the meeting, the nine teachers’ organisations said it was displeasing that the government was seemingly prioritising the soldiers and police over them.
“The irony of this situation has been your piecemeal and discriminatory awards for public service, State employees and civil servants with other State employees getting better awards, this is surprising as much as it is shocking, and indeed frustrating,” the teachers’ unions said.
“The armed forces seem to be holding the better end of the stick since July 2020. In some instances, they seem to have received more than double teachers’ salaries.
“By comparative terms, this indicates that educators are workers of lesser status in the macroeconomic yard. We feel this is unjustifiable, unnecessary and provocative discrimination.”
The teachers added: “All this is happening when the economy has re-dollarised. Transport, groceries, medication, rentals, school fees and other services are dollarised.
“Your economic intelligence units have these statistics, and we cannot believe you when you claim ignorance of these factors,” the teachers said in apparent reference to a statement by Mathema last week, who told Parliament that he was not aware why teachers were declaring incapacitation.
The teachers are demanding restoration of the purchasing power parity of their October 2018 earnings that stood at US$520.
“We also want government to address the current salary distortions impacting on equitable remuneration management and creating arbitrary awards between teachers and other workers of the same government. We demand that the rationalisation be done and backdated to July,” the teachers said.
The meeting came after the government, through Mathema, accused some teachers of illegally conducting extra lessons and charging US$5 per subject, but failing to turn up for official duty.
Last week, Treasury announced a 40% cost of living salary adjustment to cushion civil servants, but the teachers described the adjustment as “a joke”.
“The gross salary pegged around $4 200 for most of teachers can be best described as an insult to hardworking teachers and makes no sense in an economy where even the governments’ own statistics agency has calculated the poverty datum line at $17 244 for a family of six as of August 2020. That alone indicates the salary is inadequate for survival,” the educators said.
“They just took our demands, then they said they are going to present it to Cabinet so we wait for their feedback while we are not at work because we don’t have the capacity to report for duty.”
Government last week forced the opening of schools with examination-writing classes, but teachers yesterday advised parents to withdraw their children from schools as they risked contracting COVID-19 since they would be without supervisors.
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