Govt to replace striking teachers with college graduates

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BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/DESMOND CHINGARANDE
GOVERNMENT yesterday threatened to expel all striking teachers and school heads who fail to report for duty by Tuesday next week and replace them with college graduates and unemployed trained educators.

The threat came despite the High Court yesterday overturning last week’s suspension of educators by Primary and Secondary Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu.

Teachers dragged Ndlovu to the High Court after she summarily dismissed those who had not reported for work since schools opened for the first term on February 7 citing incapacitation.

But the Public Service Commission (PSC), in a statement, said teachers, who failed to report for work by February 22, would be deemed to have resigned from the civil service and would not be allowed to reapply.

Teachers and school heads, who are demanding the pre-October 2018 salary of US$540, have rejected the government offer of a 20% pay increase and US$100 cash to be deducted from their local currency salary component.

“The opening of schools has brought to the fore the importance of safeguarding the inalienable right of every Zimbabwean child to an education as provided for in section 75 of the Constitution,” the PSC statement read.

“Unemployed trained teachers, university and college graduates in the sciences, engineering, vocational areas and other disciplines who are interested in joining the teaching profession should ensure that they are registered at the nearest district education offices as the recruitment process shall begin soon after February 22, 2022.

“Those reporting for duty but not teaching will also be deemed to have resigned. Those deemed to have resigned shall not be eligible for this recruitment. Government has taken the position that it will now work with those who demonstrate their commitment by performing their duties at all times to serve the nation.”

Teachers’ representatives said they would fight for their rights.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said: “We warned the government that it was going to be an uphill task to call teachers to schools without paying them first. Teachers are incapacitated and we need a comprehensive roadmap to be followed in addressing our issues.”

The PTUZ also petitioned Education International, a global federation of teachers’ trade unions which is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, where President Emmerson Mnangagwa is attending the European Union/African Union summit, to intervene to resolve their impasse with the government.

“We are requesting Education International to intervene on our behalf and engage the government of Zimbabwe to avert a labour crisis.  It is important to note that the government can afford to act in blatant disregard of normal labour relations with workers because it has consistently failed to adhere to International Labour Organisation Conventions 151 and 154 which obliges it to adhere to good labour relations,” the PTUZ letter dated February 15, read.

Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union chairperson Obert Masaraure said: “The employer cannot resign on behalf of the employee. Government is in a clear state of confusion.  Our members remain incapacitated despite the government threats that they will fire those who cannot attend duty. We have already taken steps for our legal action against the goverment directive.”

Legal expert Tawanda Mapuranga said government’s decision had no legal backing.

“It’s a silly decision, it is legally incompetent. It is a decision that has been motivated by political interests. The government cannot give an order on a blanket level like that. Legally, they have to start at an individual level. ”

Parents that spoke to NewsDay yesterday said the government ran the risk of employing inexperienced teachers, compromising education standards.

Meanwhile, High Court judge Justice Fatima Chikapamambo Maxwell set aside the suspension of teachers which was announced by Ndlovu last week. This was in response to a court application by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) seeking nullification of Ndlovu’s statement which suspended teachers.

Artuz was represented by Noble Chinhanu and Tatenda Zvobgo of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

In her ruling, Justice Maxwell declared: “The Press statement by the respondent is hereby declared to be unconstitutional and unlawful and is hereby set aside in its entirety.

Ndlovu did not file an opposing submission. She also did not attend the hearing and was ordered to meet the cost of the suit.

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