It has become a tradition that teachers call for strikes every time schools are about to open, pressing for better working conditions, particularly salaries.
Schools open today amid fears of a crippling strike after one of the biggest teachers’ unions — the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) — issued a statement to the effect that they would down chalk.
While PTUZ are of the view that they should strike, the other union — the more conservative Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) — seems to be sitting on the fence.
Justified or not, perpetual threats of teachers’ strike action disturbs the mindset of children who will be geared to resume learning.
The issue of teachers’ conditions of service has been outstanding for too long. It is a reflection of poor governance and lack of planning.
The government must prioritise strategic sectors such as education as it has a direct bearing on the future of the country.
Education is vital and, as such, teachers’ grievances must be addressed with urgency to allow smooth running of schools. Children are the leaders of tomorrow and importance must be attached to the people who mentor them.
PTUZ national director Enock Paradzayi was quoted saying: “What we are calling for is that all teachers from around Zimbabwe join in the strike because the government is not taking us seriously.”
Therein lies the problem.
The government must take its employees seriously and consider their demands for better salaries. The teachers want their monthly salaries pegged above the poverty datum line which is $546. They currently earn around $250.
The outcry by the teachers might be justified by the fact that the unity government in the first half of last year alone blew $40 million on State-paid travel, both in and out of the country, according to Ministry of Finance figures.
That the State can afford such extravagance is an indication that money is there somewhere in the coffers, but priorities are simply misplaced. The government is attending to the wrong things while neglecting bread and butter issues.
Unconfirmed reports suggest high-ranking government officials get outlandish allowances while on foreign jaunts while back home problems bedeviling the education, health and service delivery systems are not being addressed.
It is high time those that are put in positions of authority knew why they are there. Their main mandate is to serve the people and ensure the wheels of governance are well oiled for the prosperity of the country.
It seems to us many of the people in positions of authority are just there to line their pockets while the constituency they should serve suffers.
The issue of teachers’ salaries must be given the seriousness it deserves to avoid perpetual problems in schools at the beginning of the school term.
Government and the teachers must come up with a lasting solution.
In simple terms, that means the administration should increase the wages of the teachers so they concentrate on their core business — that of teaching our children.