Teachers’ strike: Govt wields axe…dangles more incentives for civil servants

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BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
GOVERNMENT yesterday said it would soon dock salaries and suspend teachers and headmasters failing to report for duty since Monday, but the educators said they were unfazed by the threats.

This came as government offered a 20% increase on the Zimbabwe dollar salary component for civil servants backdated to January 1, US$100 per month in hard currency effective March 1 in addition to the US$75 they were getting and introduced an advancement award which recognises seniority.

Government also offered to pay school fees for teachers’ children covering three biological children, with a cap of $20 000 per child per term.

It also offered to construct 34 000 housing units (2 125 blocks of flats) and roll out a housing loan guarantee scheme, provide transport facility for both rural and urban teachers as well as allow teachers to import vehicles duty-free, which they can only dispose of after three years.

Over 90% of the country’s teaching staff has not reported for duty since Monday when schools opened for the first term citing financial challenges, but government initially claimed that there was a high staff turnout at most schools, particularly in rural areas.

Teacher unions last week declared that their members would only resume duties after their employer had acceded to their demand for the pre-October 2018 salary of US$520 or its equivalent in local currency.

In a circular addressed to provincial education directors, district school inspectors and school heads, Primary and Secondary Education ministry secretary Tumisang Thabela threatened disciplinary action.

“It has come to the attention of the Primary and Secondary Education ministry that some officials did not report for duty when schools opened on February 7, 2022 as per the 2022 school calendar. This unwarranted conduct deprived learners of their right to education as enshrined in sections 75 and 81 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” she said.

“Accordingly, heads of offices should take urgent disciplinary action against any of their members who obstruct the opening of schools and deprive learners of their constitutional rights.

“Where necessary, heads of offices should charge and suspend members at the school, district, provincial or national level and ensure that all due processes are followed as per Public Service Regulation 2000 as amended.”

Thabela directed provincial education directors to provide daily updates on progress made in handling the disciplinary cases in their respective provinces.

“Officials are reminded that the principle of ‘no work no pay’ shall apply where members failed their services,” she said.

But Zimbabwe National Union of School Heads secretary-general Munyaradzi Majoni told NewsDay that their members were unfazed by government threats, saying they were not on strike.

“Instead of telling the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) what is on the ground, we realise that there are people who choose to lie. Nobody is on strike. The challenge that we have is that people no longer have the capacity to continue to offer their normal services,” Majoni said.

“You ask us to perform duties when we don’t have the capacity. School heads are not going to comply with that letter. It will take a miracle for the attendance rate to improve.”

When schools opened this week, headmasters joined teachers in demanding US dollar salaries.

School heads, who are reportedly earning around $30 000 per month, and a US$75 COVID-19 allowance that was extended to all civil servants, have joined their junior staff in the job action.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said: “Government must not dismiss our rights and interests. What concept causes the Primary and Secondary Education ministry secretary to order school heads to harass juniors?”

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Robson Chere said “the circular will be treated like any other useless piece of paper such as tissue”.

“Teachers remain incapacitated and as the government implements its ‘no-work no-pay policy’, we as teachers will also implement the ‘no-pay no-work policy’,” he said.

Government has said it has no capacity to pay US dollar salaries to its workers.

Central bank governor John Mangudya on Monday said redollarisation of the economy was unsustainable as the country had insufficient foreign currency to back it up.

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