PRIMARY and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora’s crusade to scrap off teacher incentives earned through extra lessons has torched the professionals’ anger as they are now taking home much less than support staff that include school drivers, groundspeople and laboratory assistants.
This comes in the wake of indications that Dokora had prepared a dossier for Cabinet in which he, among other things, recommended the removal of teacher incentives which the minister claims were raising the cost of education and, consequently, burdening parents and guardians.
A snap survey done by NewsDay has revealed that support staff in schools — who fall under the National Employment Council for Educational and Welfare Institutions — were pocketing between $500 and $600.
In January this year, civil servants got a $54 salary increment which saw the lowest paid employee earning $375 against the poverty datum line set at $505.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said the use of separate pieces of legislation — the Public Service Act and the Labour Act — has created discrepancies and contributed to the wide chasm between the earnings of teachers and support staff in schools.
“The people who are employed as civil servants are governed by the Public Service Act while others are governed by the Labour Act. This creates differences in the negotiation platforms,” he said.
During David Coltart’s tenure as Education minister under the power–sharing agreement entered into by Zanu PF and the two MDCs, teachers found succour in the earnings realised through incentives paid by parents and income realised through extra lessons.
When Dokora took over the ministry, however, he
re–arranged the matrix, saying paid extra lessons had been banned before scrapping the incentives which he argued made parents and guardians pay more for their children’s education.
In a recent circular to the country’s provincial education directors, the permanent secretary Constance Chigwamba, however, said the ministry had not imposed a blanket ban on extra lessons, but teachers should first seek the parent ministry’s authority to do so.
“Please be advised that no school will be allowed to conduct holiday or extra lessons without the express authority of the secretary for Primary and Secondary Education,” reads the circular.
“Any school violating this injunction should be dealt with in terms of Statutory Instrument (SI) 1 of 2000 (3) of the First Schedule (Section 2), Acts of Misconduct.”
Although the circular was likely to elicit a sigh of relief from the hard–pressed teaching professionals, they were still riled by the fact that drivers and groundspeople at their workstations earned more money than them.
Soon afterwards, Dokora did an about turn and said he had not imposed any bans, but ordered schools to first seek clearance with the parent ministry and confined extra lessons to examination classes only.
The ministry, however, specified that such clearance would only be granted for examination classes — Grade 7, Form 4 and 6.
Teachers who spoke to NewsDay said it was embarrassing that a groundsman earned more than a professional teacher.
“It’s laughable, but embarrassing at the same time,” a teacher at a school in Chitungwiza said.
“I think government should look into that and ensure that the dignity of the teacher is restored.”
Ndlovu said it was unacceptable that the lowest paid driver was earning better than a teacher and there was need for such glaring distortions to be corrected.
“Schools are paying more to groundspeople. The thing is that decisions are not made by SDAs [School Development Associations], but by NEC [National Employment Council], which produces schedules of grades and the accompanying salary scales,” he said.
During the recent launch of the $3 million Teacher Capacity Development Programme aimed at upgrading teachers’ educational qualifications to effectively contribute to the curriculum in Harare, President Robert Mugabe said it was important to improve the welfare of teachers so that they could fulfil their obligations diligently.
He said teaching was an honourable profession which involved the dispensing of knowledge.
“Those who make us know more must have the means, they must be capacitated and what does that mean? Give them more money as wages. Yes, I agree, they must be in a situation where they do not worry about food, clothes, families, travel and so on — they should be well salaried so we make them comfortable, comfortable physically, morally and spiritually so that they can undertake the process of research without worrying about that situation regarding their well-being,” he said.
Some teachers said it appeared as if Dokora was out to “reduce” them and many of them were likely to abandon the profession or look elsewhere for respite. They complained that instead of rewarding teachers for their enterprise, the ministry was out to frustrate them.
“That is the only way you can explain the removal of incentives,” a teacher with a Harare school said. “You would think as our minister, he should actually be coming up with initiatives to improve our situation like what Coltart used to do. He is actually slowly undoing all that Coltart did and it appears very deliberate.”
He said it was not surprising that parents felt insulted by the bid to stop extra lessons because such a move was calculated to undermine the gains made in the education sector.
He said the concept of incentives has been in existence in private schools and its positive effects have historically been cherished by students from elite families. This has contributed significantly towards quality education in private schools and students from these schools occupy most, if not all top executive posts and offices in the country.
Since 2012, support staff at mission schools earned salaries higher than school heads, forcing 75 mission schools to approach the High Court seeking to bar their workers from subscribing to NEC for Educational and Welfare Institutions.
At that time, the most paid auxiliary staffers got a basic salary of $509, exclusive of allowances with most school heads are earning an average of $400, following a collective bargaining agreement for NEC published under Statutory Instrument 6 of 2012.
Mission schools resisted paying the gazetted salaries arguing that only schools that do not have school development committees should be governed by NEC figures.
Early this year, Dokora issued a ban on extra lessons arguing that teachers were not pulling their weight during normal working hours in a bid to generate funds through extra lessons.
The lessons ranged between $2 and $10 per week.
Teachers’ unions, however, argued that teachers needed the extra money to supplement their meagre salaries.
Statutory Instrument 107 of 2005 states that a school calendar should provide for at least 180 days and not more than 200 days in each year.
Dokora told the media that extra lessons were a money–spinning initiative that disadvantaged learners.
“Learners need a break to renew their zeal and zest for learning. It is instructive to note that extra or holiday lessons were being organised purely for monetary reasons, not for circular considerations,” he said.
He said an analysis of school performance in public examinations showed that schools that conducted extra lessons did not necessarily perform better than those that did not conduct them.
He said holiday lessons disadvantaged children that needed a break and parents should appreciate the importance of allowing their children to have a break so that they can go back to school recharged.
“Parents should use holidays to spend quality time with their children. The ability of parents to pay for the lessons is not the issue. It is a deliberate attempt to deny children a break for monetary reasons that are of concern to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education,” he said.
Ndlovu said it was important for government to remunerate people in line with the nature of their jobs and their qualifications.
He said as an association, they wanted government to make decisions and craft statutory instruments that would see workers remunerated accordingly and not just on the wishes of an employment council.