Govt must restore teachers’ dignity

Zimbabwean teachers on strike

THURSDAY’S drastic action by government to suspend teachers who have failed to turn up for work because they have been incapacitated as a result of the depreciating Zimbabwe dollar was the most callous move a right-thinking employer would take.

Primary and Secondary Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu must have been out of her senses.

At worst, she was working on advice from useless cheerleaders who told her what she wanted to hear.

Following her ill-advised and emotionally-charged move, or sheer callousness, one begins to wonder the quality of her doctorate. People with such high-level qualifications are known to be good and considerate thinkers. Surely, how would they negotiate with a bullying minister pointing a gun to their heads?

It is important to note that teachers are not behind the looting and extravagance that have grounded this economy and ripped apart a currency inherited as the strongest in Southern Africa Development Community only 42 years ago.

It is the high rollers in powerful State offices, many of them corrupt, that have destroyed this economy, Ndlovu ought to appreciate that teachers have not played a blame game, neither have they demanded luxuries that their masters enjoy.

They have requested a basic wage, which gives them capacity to feed their families and, at least buy a few clothes from second-hand markets to restore their dignity. In spite of their high qualifications and hard work, they have become society’s laughing stock.

They are berated by everyone, including learners and school dropouts. But even as they face this unprecedented derogation, they continue to produce world class students who have gone on to serve their families, communities, country and the world with distinction. Yet everyone uses them as an example of failure. What then is the meaning of hard work and dedication, if heroes are mocked when they serve, and threatened when they indicate that they can’t breathe?

They are earning as little as $25 000, yet ballooning prices have left the cost of living for a basic family at almost $80 000 per month. They were broke before they received their salaries. But many of them required to travel back to work in remote locations of the country, where transport costs are high.

When they get there, there is no electricity, no supermarkets and no basic healthcare facilities in some cases. Roads are destroyed due to years of neglect, maladministration and corruption, further damaged by heavy rains. There are no guarantees that once they reach their workstations, they would be able to return for shopping due to flooding.

Soon, they may be prevented from travel by ruling Zanu PF hooligans as by-elections draw closer. They accuse them of supporting the opposition, which means travel won’t be easy. Teachers would be confined to their homes, haunted by the parents whose children they are teaching, and by their own government.

This means they had to plan for supplies that last longer before they left their homes. The money wasn’t there. This is why, in the case of headmasters, they said they were not on strike, but were waiting for better pay so that they could travel back to schools.

Instead of listening, Ndlovu went to the armoury and came back armed to the teeth — ready to fight. Fighting who, over what? What has happened to common sense, minister? Would you send your own children to teach under such horrible conditions? Would you send them to schools that have no basic facilities? We demand common sense to prevail in this fiasco. Teachers must be given their dignity back, now.