Zimbabwe teachers resume strike on first day of schools reopening

Teachers in Zimbabwe are on strike to demand a salary of USD520 per month and for the provision of PPE for them and the learners. Photo by Christopher Mahove

The Public Service Commission announced that all civil servants will receive a top-up on their salaries but it does not match teachers’ salary demand.

It remains to be seen how the Zimbabwean government will respond to the teachers’ strike as final year examinations for school children hang in the balance. On Monday, teachers continued with their strike for better salaries and working conditions on the first day of the delayed third term.

The educators began nationwide job action early this year before the schools were forced to close in March because of the lockdown necessitated by the outbreak of the coronavirus. They are demanding a salary of USD520 per month and personal protective equipment for them and their pupils before they resume duty.

More than one million learners are expected to sit for final examinations this year, with the Grade Seven and Advanced Level examinations set to start in December while Ordinary Level examinations are expected to start early in January next year.

Teachers unions reported more than 90 percent of educators had heeded their calls to engage in job action after negotiations with the government failed to yield any positive results.

“The response across the country was impressive. More than 90 percent of teachers did not report for work because they are incapacitated. Students were turned away,” said Takavafira Zhou, president of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, the biggest teacher representative body in the country.

Zhou said the incapacitation of teachers was real, adding that there is a need for the government to soften its response to a more constructive approach.

He said the APEX Council, a grouping of government workers’ representative bodies, had failed to effectively represent workers and was playing to the whims of government.

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“There are no negotiations but mere begging by the obsolete, archaic and moribund Apex Council whose term of office had long expired. Apex no longer has the mandate to beg on our behalf and we will not respect an outcome that comes from unprocedural romantic escapades,” he said.

He accused the Apex Council of rushing to clandestinely form a federation of government workers with government’s blessings but without a mandate from workers.

“Anything for teachers without teachers is against teachers,” Zhou said.

A few days before the opening of schools, the Public Service Commission announced it would pay all civil servants a top-up cushioning allowance beginning 2 October, 2020.

“The Public Service Commission wishes to announce that, in the spirit of an understanding between government and its employees, Government will proceed to pay in addition to regular emoluments paid out earlier this week, what is available, while negotiations in the National Joint Negotiating Council continue. This payment does not prejudice the negotiations but seeks to cushion the workers in the interim, pending the conclusion of negotiations,” reads part of a statement by the PSC secretary, Jonathan Wutawunashe.

But Zhou rubbished the development, saying that it is not what the teachers were negotiating for. “We never asked for a cushion but restoration of our purchasing power to the October 2018 position of USD520-550,” he said.

Teachers in the country are currently earning an average of ZWL11 000, which is roughly equivalent to R1,600.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Cain Mathema, had not responded to questions in time for publication.

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