Teachers defiant as government ratchets up threats over work boycott

HARARE – The government on Tuesday ratcheted up threats against teachers as their work boycott intensified, with most government schools remaining closed countrywide.

Primary and secondary education secretary Tumisang Thabela demanded “urgent disciplinary action” against teachers boycotting work, but unions appeared united and defiant.

“The threat by the employer is a desperate response. Teachers don’t need discipline but an economic solution,” said Sifiso Ndlovu, CEO of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association which boasts 43,000 members.

ZIMTA later said it held talks Tuesday with representatives of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and tabled demands for a “hybrid salary of US$671 for the lowest paid teacher.”

“Pressed to hint on the package, the representatives could only say ‘government is looking at a package that is good’,” ZIMTA said in a statement.

The union said “expectations of fruitful results are high.”

Teachers currently earn an average Z$21,000, about US$180 at the government’s controlled official exchange rate, or US$90 on the widely-used parallel market.

Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers’ Union (PTUZ), charged: “The government is proving to us that they are not keen on solving the problems that teachers have submitted to them.

“Teachers have not committed any crime, all they are saying is pay us a decent salary and we will honourably come back and teach. They are ready to teach up to midnight, if required.”

In a circular, Thabela demanded that all provincial education directors, schools inspectors and school heads should take “urgent disciplinary action against any of their members who obstructed the opening of schools and deprived learners of their constitutional right.”

She demanded “daily updates on progress in handling the disciplinary cases.”

Teachers have not officially declared a strike but say they are “incapacitated”. ZIMTA noted that “the education system has been dislocated as many educators genuinely failed to get back to their stations.”

“Wielding a stick means the employer has run out of ideas to resolve the situation, and that is an old tactic that will not solve the challenges of teachers,” said Ndlovu.

Majongwe vowed they were “ready to defend” any teachers victimised by the government.

“They (government) cannot proceed in the kangaroo manner they have put forward,” Majongwe said.

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