JUST imagine spending 35 years in the teaching profession, and getting only US$30 after retiring.
These are the stories that most retired civil servants in Zimbabwe live to tell.
Most of the former civil servants relate that since 2007 during the hyperinflation period, everything to do with pension changed and they lost out their savings and investments.
The value of their pensions, they argue, had become low.
In an exclusive interview with NewsDay recently, Bulawayo-based retired teacher and veteran educationist Ben Moyo said although he was luckier than his colleagues, life has been difficult for retired teachers.
He inherited his late father’s farm and also does part-time lecturing at Catholic University to eke a living.
He also revealed that the US$30 that he earns as pension is frustrating and cannot meet the needs of an individual, not even the whole family.
“Employers and the government must look after their employees even after retirement. The Zimdollar payment they are getting is peanuts, the economy is hostile.
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“On the contribution by the employers even after the person has retired, there is a need for a constant review. The peanuts we are getting are not sustainable.
“Sometimes we get US$30 and what can you buy with US$30? The rates for the houses we live in are very high? So, yes, there is a challenge and the employer has an obligation to look after the employees right now.”
He also argued that government was spending too much on luxuries for officials.
Moyo said he started off as a temporary teacher in 1980 and became a trained teacher in 1983.
“I have seen dramatic changes in the education system. During our time, when you graduated, you were assessed for permanence in the system for two years on probation.
“That has changed. I am nostalgic for that because the teacher was groomed before he/she began permanent work. That was exciting,” Moyo said.
He lamented changes made to the curriculum after the government moved from the Cambridge General Certificate of Education to the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec).
“The standards have deteriorated. Our examinations have lost credibility. There are constant leaks in the system and Zimsec has become a big joke.
“We have seen the government introduce Cala [Continued Assessment Learning Activity] as it reviewed the curriculum. What I find surprising is that during the review, parents were constant in rejecting the idea, but the government went on and on against them. That is not right,” Moyo said.
He said professionalism among teachers had declined due to the low salaries they earn, adding that they should not be using public transport.
“They are lodgers in the houses of parents of the children they teach, so how can they be respected? There is so much that I think has changed for the worse,” he said.
Moyo also bemoaned the decline in the education sector due to underfunding by government.
He said Zimbabwe was part of the declaration which was ratified by countries that committed themselves to allocating 20% of their budget to education, but the country was far from meeting that threshold.
Moyo said Treasury allocated 13% of the budget to education.
“I also find it strange that the government has not honoured its obligation to pay Basic Education Assistance Module funds for the past two years.
“Education is in comatose because the government is not releasing money it should be putting. I also think that the government is reneging on its constitutional mandate rendering education to be in this state,” he said.
The former educationist said the future was bleak for teachers still serving unless the economy transforms and becomes more productive to enable their contribution to the National Social Security Authority to sustain them.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Takemore Mhlanga bemoaned the teachers’ meagre pensions.
He said the pensions were stressful, adding that they could not sustain families even for a month.
“The teachers’ pensions cannot sustain their lives, if you compare it to the current cost of living and standard cost of goods. The pension cannot sustain their monthly needs.
“For example, just recently, a teacher who served for 35 years retired and was given about ZWL$2 million, which is far below what he contributed as pension for the rest of his service.
“Government must be humane enough to pay teachers reasonable pensions, especially those who retire now, they must be paid in US dollars. There is no need to pay them the money that they know does not take them anywhere.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Matabeleland South co-ordinator Urgent Moyo said government should respect its workers and restore the dignity of pensioners.
“Pensioners are no longer the pensioners we used to know a long time ago. The government must respect its workers and pay them a living salary while at the same time paying them handsomely when they retire,” he said.
“It is sad that when a teacher retires, he/she becomes destitute and dies suddenly because of stress. Many teachers become destitute when they retire and soon die because of stress. Government must take care of its workers.”
The PTUZ official accused authorities of investing teachers’ pensions in buildings, but fail to pay the pensioners.
Moyo, the retired teacher, is secretary for education in the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association and is a member of the Goat Farmers Association in Matabeleland South.
He started full-time teaching in 1983 and was a headmaster for 35 years. He headed a government, mission and private schools.