BY VENERANDA LANGA
TEACHERS unions, represented by the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Union (Zimta) and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), yesterday demanded that government pays salaries above the poverty datum line given that the consumer basket was now around $3 600.
They appeared before the joint sitting of the Priscilla Misihairabwi-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education and the Portfolio Committee on Public Service chaired by Emma Ncube to speak on their petition to Parliament, demanding that their salaries be pegged against the intermarket bank exchange rate and part of it ($200) be paid in United States dollars.
“The April 2019 salary adjustments have been overtaken by runaway inflation which was 76%, but now it is around 900% and the State is failing to act constitutionally by adequately remunerating teachers and is thus violating the rights of teachers and students because teaching is no longer a decent job and falls way below standards because the salary is not commensurate with teachers as professionals,” Zimta president Paul Gundani said, while presenting on behalf of Zimta and the PTUZ.
“We are saying (give) us poverty datum line salaries,” he said.
Gundani said the government was acting at a snail’s pace to adjust teachers’ salaries to match economic trends and inflation, adding that the April 2019 salary adjustments of a mere $69 did not take into account inflation, resulting in teachers’ self-esteem now being shattered.
He said government faced a situation reminiscent to 2008 where teachers were incapacitated and thousands failed to report to work resulting in the decay of the education system.
Gundani said teachers want salaries in line with the interbank rates obtaining and at least US$200 more.
PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe blasted the Apex Council led by Cecilia Alexander, saying they were masquerading as representatives of teachers and had welcomed the $400 once off cost of living adjustment which teachers did not negotiate for and was a mockery because as soon as civil servants get that prices will go up.
“The Apex Council was even created by Statutory Instrument 141 which is a legal nullity and does not even exist in the Public Service Act. There has never been collective bargaining and workers are represented by Alexander (who masquerades) as representing workers, yet there is no collective bargaining,” Majongwe said.
He added that teachers were under threat of contracting HIV because up to date married teachers were living separately from their wives with the Education ministry not taking meaningful action to transfer them so that they live near to their spouses.
“There is serious indiscipline at schools and drug abuse and we must be able to control our youths because children are now beating up teachers and this is not a laughing matter. We do not want to be like South Africa where teachers are now coming to school armed because students do as they please,” he said.
Majongwe also blasted the Zimbabwe School Examination Council, saying it was making teachers mark and invigilate exams for free when Cambridge used to pay them.
“Government said they do not want US dollars and yet goods and services are priced on RTGS equivalent to the US$. Fuel has gone up because of the interbank change rate, but it is not the same for teachers’ salaries. Teachers used to be paid US$475, but now they are getting RTGS$475. If a teacher cannot afford $2 284 for a pint of blood, what more an ordinary person,” Majongwe said.
He then revealed that there were now high divorce rates among teachers due to their meagre salaries.
“Wives are now refusing to give conjugal rights to their husbands because the men are contributing nothing at home,” he said. Majongwe said in 1980 teachers were able to send their children to school, but today they were failing to send a single child to pre-school.