IT is that time of the year again, when the never-ending soap opera between the government and teachers become the daily talk. Everytime public examinations come around, the fight over payment comes to a head and speaks to very poor leadership and planning by government.
The teachers and their employer have been at loggerheads for a long time, with no solution in sight to the many points of contention.
There are more than 100 000 public sector teachers in Zimbabwe and they have been demanding better pay since government switched from using the US dollar to using the Zimdollar as the main currency, which has been eroded by inflation amid skyrocketing prices.
Government has largely ignored their demands, but the start of the examinations gives the teachers new ground for pressing for better conditions of service.
In today’s lead story, government accuses teachers unions of presiding over the collapse of the education system by refusing to invigilate the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) “O” and “A” Level examinations which begin today.
The teachers should perform the duty for free, charges Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro. That is just preposterous.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe National Teachers Union and the Educators Union of Zimbabwe have all declared that their members will not invigilate the examinations if government is not going to pay them for the service.
With about 42 000 members, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association is ambivalent, and opts for dialogue before deciding on the next course of action.
That dialogue at the National Joint Negotiation Council meeting today presents a get-out-of-jail card for government to make a deal with the teachers to avoid a situation where villagers have to be hired to oversee the examinations, like last year.
Ndoro’s claim that 82% of the teachers in the country are not affiliated to any union and will invigilate for free is laughable because it is not true.
He says: “All Zimbabweans understand that teaching is a noble profession and that our teachers, despite whatever union they represent, are selfless and always ready to go to any extent to help their learners. It gives them a great feeling of self-satisfaction when they see their learners achieve in life.”
If teaching is a “noble” profession, why is government failing to pay the teachers a decent salary? By failing to make adequate preparations for the examinations, including paying for the invigilation service, government is the one taking pupils and the people of Zimbabwe for granted. Its intransigence is putting the integrity of the examinations at risk.