GOVERNMENT is reportedly pampering senior civil servants in the education sector by giving them travel and subsistence allowances pegged in United States dollars (US$), a development that has sparked outrage among teachers.
NewsDay has gathered that the senior officials who include provincial school inspectors and district school inspectors are benefiting from per diems which are not applicable to ordinary teachers, a situation that has resulted in discrepancies in earnings within the education sector.
The senior officers reportedly get allowances of up to US$125 per day, which is paid in local currency for attending meetings, chairing disciplinary meetings and other events in the education ministry.
Ordinary teachers do not benefit from such allowances.
Teachers who spoke to NewsDay accused government of offering perks to the senior education officers to encourage them to intimidate and gag teachers against demanding better salaries.
Teachers have been demanding full salaries in US$ owing to the country’s rising cost of living.
“A layer of elite civil servants is being created to strengthen ‘supervision’ of the majority of civil servants,” Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure claimed.
“That layer is enjoying special perks and is being deployed to scuttle any collective job actions. Government has divided teachers through the introduction of a layer of teachers who are promised to enjoy economic privileges, professional exceptionalism and social protection. The group named Teachers for ED is being used as a vehicle to bastardise trade unionism.”
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Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said: “Senior officials in the Education ministry get per diems on several occasions during the course of the month while teachers are in class, working.
“What is worrisome is that government realised the need to peg the allowances in United States dollars, which is to cushion them from inflation, but we have been for long requesting our salaries in United States dollars with government turning a deaf ear to our request.
“As a result, the senior officials are pocketing way more what teachers are earning, which is somewhat demoralising teachers in class.”
Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said there was nothing amiss in giving allowances to senior members because it was the norm across all other government departments, as well as in the private sector.
“The allowances may be pegged in US$, but government pays them in local currency at the prevailing interbank rate,” Ndoro said.
“If they get an allowance in US dollars, it would be (from) our development partners who include the British Council, Unicef or World Vision, among others. Those can pay them in US dollars and we can’t stop them. The issue of allowances applies everywhere else. What is different is salary earnings which are graded such that those with high grades earn more than those at lower ranks.”
Civil servants have been raising concerns over salary discrepancies in the civil service, which has been described as a divide and rule tactic to quash their US$ salary demands.