Teachers now need to take decisive action

Opinion & Analysis
What teachers need now is collective job action that gives their employer cause for concern, and sleepless nights — which will, hopefully, force them into capitulating, and finally heeding the demands for a living wage.

BY Tendai Ruben Mbofana AS our country’s esteemed teachers leave their banks, shaking their heads in utter disbelief and disgust, at the continued brazen insults at the hands of their employer, after the recently 100% salary increment, amounted to a disgraceful US$48 net-earning — it is time they make the tough choice whether they want to finally be taken seriously by the government, or remain willing punching bags, always taken for granted as toothless bulldogs, who cannot stand up for themselves.

Our beloved teachers, who I have always had a soft spot for, possibly as a consequence of my dear late father having been a brilliant educator who inspired me with his love for the impartation of learning have for far too long turned the other cheek towards their employer, in endless fruitless and, quite frankly, nonsensical negotiations with a government that is undoubtedly noncommittal towards the restoration of their wages to their pre-October 2019 monthly levels of an average US$540, which was swiftly eroded due to the senseless reintroduction of a useless local currency.

Surely, as their families slowly starve, for how long are our teachers going to say: “Give negotiations another chance”?

What can be more humiliating than a teacher, whose own children are kicked out of school, because of the inability to pay fees and yet, expected to enthusiastically teach other children with high morale and peace of mind?

What can remove a teacher’s dignity quicker than failing to pay rent, where he or she is leasing a room or two, at the houses of his or her own pupil’s parents and, most likely be unceremoniously evicted, in the process?

How would he or she seriously be expected to set foot in the classroom the following day, and thereafter?

There is nothing that steals all dignity from a broke teacher than having to beg for “maputi” (popcorn) from street vendors, as a result of gnawing hunger.

At the end of the day, it has become undeniable that the government has absolutely zero interest in ameliorating their embarrassing plight — spitting in the faces of not only our teachers, but all other civil servants despite being fully aware of the horrid livelihoods they are enduring on such measly salaries, not even worth the paper they are written on.

Who, in the country’s ruling elitist privileged clique, can honestly survive on US$48, even for a day which, if taken to a local supermarket, cannot even afford a basketful (not to mention a trolley) of basic commodities who, themselves, are handsomely paid hefty insane salaries in US dollars?

Nonetheless, the onus is now squarely on our teachers to determine their own futures, and whether they earnestly desire to finally be taken seriously by their employer, and have their dignity restored.

By the very nature of the universe we all live in, an employer seeks to minimise their expenditure as much as possible, so as to maximise his bottom line and, unfortunately, employees’ salaries are usually regarded as the easiest targets, since they normally constitute the bulk of expenses.

With that in mind, genuinely expecting the employer to willingly and readily award wages satisfactory to his employees, would be the height of self-delusion.

Any such, movements on the salary scale require that employees to prove how indispensable they are, and ensure, in no uncertain terms, that their demands for a dignified salary are clearly and forcefully delivered, without any quivering or relenting.

This is where our teachers, and the rest of the civil service, are found worryingly wanting!

To say, what we have witnessed over the course of their demands for a living wage most particularly, the past three years is less than impressive, would be a gross understatement.

Their half-hearted and half-baked threats for firm and crushing industrial action, have been nothing short of embarrassing, at best and, a betrayal of a lack of seriousness, at worst.

What teachers need now is collective job action that gives their employer cause for concern, and sleepless nights — which will, hopefully, force them into capitulating, and finally heeding the demands for a living wage.

Anything less, would be nothing short of a joke which, as before, will not be funny in any way, but only seek to render teachers a spineless lot, who can be pushed around and treated as garbage, without ever resisting.

If teachers, and the rest of the civil service, want to talk with this government till kingdom come that is their prerogative, but they should not cry when the expected and inevitable occurs…when their wages continue to worsen and be eroded by hyperinflation without any respite.

Furthermore, attending to their workstations, and pretending to be teaching yet, never openly declaring any collective job action — is never, and has never been, a workable solution to their deplorable plight.

In fact, as my late father used to question: “Are you teaching, or are you cheating?” And, the latter is exactly what teachers would be doing, since such action only serves to prejudice the innocent learner, and in no way pushes their cause.

Actually, this is a most cowardly way of dealing with their disgruntlement against their employer!

As teacher unions procrastinate on the way forward, in the face of a concerted attack on their profession and personal dignity, they need to make their choice abundantly clear… whether they genuinely desire to finally be regarded seriously, or continually be taken for granted by their employer.

If they have truly had enough, they will know what to do!

  • Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher and social commentator

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