Robbing teachers, criminal, immoral

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Zimbabwe’s teachers are among the least paid workers in the country and have, for years, fought losing battles for reconsideration and restoration of dignity to their profession.

They earn around $300 per month, minus incentives – paid by parents and these benefit mostly teachers in urban areas.

It is not only criminal but also grossly immoral for anyone to then seek to fleece the teachers through dubious membership fees, sometimes forced on the poor educators by unions which do not feel obliged to justify their existence.

That the three teachers’ unions could be stealing as much as $7,6 million from teachers every year is shocking.

The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) collects $10 every month from about 44 000 teachers. The Progressive Teachers’ Union (PTUZ) collects $8 from a total of about 15 000 teachers while the Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ) also deducts $8 from each of its 10 000 members.

This has been going on for years and teachers have not questioned this because it apparently has not occurred to them that while individually, the $8 or $10 may appear insignificant, the collective loot is colossal and they are paying it for nothing.

It is pleasing that this matter is one of the few that minister David Coltart and his deputy Lazarus Dokora have found common ground and are determined to collectively dig out and expose the worm.

What is disturbing is that in some cases, teachers do not volunteer to become members of these unions. They only discover they belong to one union or the other when they get their payslips.

One wonders if the objective of these unions is really to serve the teachers’ interests because if that were the case, the teachers would not have been wallowing in poverty for so many years.

The money that the unions collect – nearly $7 million per year – could have been used very effectively to fight the employer, in court even, for better working conditions of members.

The fact that the country now has three teachers’ unions is also indicative of the monetary drive that has led to union leaders fighting for the cake and eventually splitting to form rival unions.

It is not to do with workers’ representation. It is all about money and now that a probe has been set, the cat may finally come out of the bag.

Given the amount of money involved, it is crucial that the investigation is left as independent as possible from people that may be willing to have their hands greased to slip the case under the carpet.

Teachers must be on the forefront of this probe and they should be ready to press for action to be taken against anyone found to have stolen from them. It is good that a council has been set up by Cabinet to monitor the operations of these unions to prevent this daylight robbery.