Perspectives: Can govt solve teachers’ demand for more pay?

File pic: Teachers protesting for pay rise

Almost every fortnight teachers are demanding more pay and threatening to go on strike. 

This is followed by lengthy negotiations, which may last a couple of months, after which the government does not increase the pay but instead pays a generous once off grant. 

This is usually enough for peace, until a month or so later. 

There are a number of reasons. 

One is the centralisation of appointments so that central government is in charge of employing 550 000 civil servants, compared to about 80 000 before Independence, a seven-fold increase. 

 Civil servants comprise more than 60% of the formal economy employees. 

Others, more than three million,  are employed in the informal economy where pay, benefits, taxation, etc. are not controlled.

Teachers were initially asking for about US$5 400 per year. 

This was the salary paid to European teachers before Independence, when there  were only a few thousand European teachers. 

African teachers were paid only 5% of the European salary, and only the more highly qualified or the promoted were paid a little more. 

After independence, African teachers insisted they should be paid the same as European teachers:  this was agreed by government if they achieved the same internationally recognised level of training as European teachers. 

All teachers also wanted to be employed as civil servants: before Independence only European teachers were civil servants. 

Government agreed that all teachers could become civil servants.

Today there are more than 140 000 teachers, nearly every one with an international level of qualification and all  of them are civil servants.

Zimbabwe’s teacher training programmes have been very successful.

Zimbabwe’s population has increased from 7½ million in 1980 to 15.1 million in 2022. 

That means the population has doubled.  

However the economy has not doubled, but has remained more or less similar to what it was at Independence. 

As pointed out above the number of civil servants has increased  seven fold.

It is not at all surprising that their salaries are not as good as they were for the handful of European civil servants before Independence.

The medium and long term answer is that the economy must increase as quickly as possible. 

The fact that it has been so difficult to increase the economy at all over the past forty years shows that this is not at all a simple or easy task.

 The economy increased by 2 – 3% in the first couple of years of Independence, but this was considered too low, and it was agreed to increase economic growth to 7% per year. 

This totally failed, as the economy failed to increase under ESAP which was adopted in 1992. 

The proposed solutions for economic growth obviously require to be examined much more rigorously and over a long period, with annual reviews to ensure that growth does take place.

The fact that moderate growth did take place in the first two years of Independence demonstrates that some of the solutions required for economic growth were actually present and active at the time.

If Zimbabwe has continued to grow by 2 – 3%  throughout Independence, Zimbabwe would have doubled its economic growth by now.

The 7% purported growth appears to have been based on wishful thinking rather than on practical analysis and practical implementation plans. 

The 2 – 3% would have given the country a much better solution than it has at present. ESAP was partly to blame for this failure. 

However, more detailed work is required which must fully involve not only the political leaders, but also the civil service, the private sector, the provincial and district governments, teachers’ unions and  other unions, research and development specialists, particularly at universities which train students and lecturers.

The mass media must also participate fully in the process so that the whole nation can agree on what should be done.

Obvious solutions include greater participation and decision making by the Government itself, rather than obeying ESAP directives made by outsiders who have never done any research in Zimbabwe at all. 

Solutions which are based on ESAP theory may be suitable for some countries, for example for some highly industrialised countries, but may not be applicable to poorly developed and partially industrialised countries such as Zimbabwe. 

Each sector has its part to play: 

The detailed implementation regulations, such as the teacher-pupil ratio, 1:40 for primary and 1:30 for secondary, also require to be re-examined. 

With the increase utilisation of computers and the internet how much of the teaching still requires this old T-P ratios based on face-to-face teaching? 

With the requirement for great linkages to agriculture, industry and job creation, how does this affect teacher education? 

Note that in a highly successful agricultural and industrial economy such as Germany, teacher training requires two to three years of in-service work and training within farms and companies, in addition to years in college.

This is not required at all in Zimbabwe, so teachers may never had have had actual work experience in agriculture, industry or commerce, yet they are teaching these subjects.

The utilisation of teacher assistants as well as of parents helping in the school and classroom needs to be discussed, with training being made available if possible, including through social media or mass media.

 Teacher assistants are available in most education systems.

 Education specialists world wide believe it is important for parents to take an active interest in their children’s school work. but most parents feel they know too little about education to assist in any way. 

Parents today are supposed to assist their children on Cala for example, yet most if not all of them, have never been involved in Cala before. 

Even teachers themselves have not participated in the formation and subsequent implementation of the new 2016 curriculum, and are unfamiliar with most details. 

It is not surprising that examination results at Grade 7 and at “O” levels have fallen drastically in the last twenty years.

Finally there are obvious ways in which this problem can be solved in the short term. 

For example, many parents are actually paying US$1 a day to force their teachers to teach their children adequately.

This has been termed “criminal” by the ministry, even though it is well recognised that the present teacher salary of between US$250 – US$350 a month is inadequate for food and school fees.

 Teachers must grow some of their own food and send their children to lower fee schools. 

Why does the ministry not allow and regulate these fees, for example by stating that  US$1 a day per pupil is unaffordable for most parents, but perhaps US$1 a week is affordable? 

Moreover the ministry could reward school development committees (SDCs)  which stop parents paying such fees individually to teachers, but ensure that they instead pay to the SDC, and the ministry can reward such SDCs by paying a grant of US$2 per child to such schools.  

This is affordable to the ministry.

 Thus the fees will be controlled.

This will enable every teacher to obtain the salary they request through this joint effort by the ministry and the parents and the school. 

It is impossible to solve this problem otherwise except by an increased economic growth.

  • *Chung  was a secondary school teacher in the township:; lecturer in polytechnics and universities; teacher trainer in the liberation struggle; civil servant and United nations civil servant; and cabinet minister of primary and secondary education.
  • These weekly articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultants (Private) Limited, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society  and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). Email- [email protected] and Mobile No. +263 772 382 852.

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