“I HAVE been a teacher all my life. For 35 years, I have dedicated myself to this public service with the knowledge that I am not only helping to enlighten the next generation of leaders, but also understand the responsibility that the parents bestow on me to help raise their children.
“I have resisted the temptation to move overseas or even in the region, with the belief that I must serve my country first. If I cannot prioritise my country, who will? But, the situation now has become desperate. It is difficult to concentrate on your duties when your car’s fuel tank is empty, you have no idea how you will pay for your daily requirements while critical medication is simply out of reach.
“The government does not seem to value teachers anymore and that is just a shame because there is no nation that can prosper without a population grounded in good education. It is not too much to ask for the State to pay us a living wage.”
The above quotes are taken from a conversation with a long-serving educator on the plight of teachers after repeated attempts to get government to raise their salaries failed.
Teachers, like the rest of the public service and indeed workers everywhere, are victims of the general malaise in the economy.
Like everyone else, they try to make ends meet utilising their skills, even if it means spending more than the eight hours behind the desk and on the chalk board.
Which is why it is laughable that the Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission (Zacc) has seen it fit to launch an investigation into teachers said to be conducting extra lessons for a fee.
Reports at the weekend quote Zacc’s prevention and corporate governance general manager Munyaradzi Magiga saying the anti-corruption body was probing public schoolteachers for conducting extra lessons for a fee.
A similar threat has also been made by the Public Service Commission. These two organisations are misguided.
For the past two years, the education calendar has been severely disrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19 and government has opted to maintain the calendar as normal. Students are having to sit for examinations that they are ill-prepared for. For many, extra lessons are the only way to make up for lost time and opportunities. For some reason, government and its agents are keen to spite the teacher who has seen an opportunity to add a few extra dollars to his/her meagre salary, while upskilling the student.
Extra lessons have been the norm for longer than the two years Zacc is whining about and the truth is everyone uses their skills to earn a living. For white-collar professions, the work they do away from their formal employment is called consulting or moonlighting. Educators teach, and it cannot be criminal for them to use their skills to make a living.
Government must stop this nonsense, it must either pay teachers a living wage or let them make a living through their skills.