The following is a February 17, 2022, ministerial statement by primary and secondary education minister Evelyn Ndlovu, and answers to questions by MPs on the state of education in Zimbabwe in the wake of industrial action by teachers
EXPLANATION ON INDUSTRIAL ACTION BY TEACHERS
THE MINISTER OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION (HON. DR. E. NDLOVU) [Speaking]: Mr. Speaker Sir the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is mandated by Government to provide relevant high quality education product to all its clients through both the formal and non-formal routes. In terms of section 75(IV) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe concerning the right to education, the Government of Zimbabwe has taken reasonable legislative and other measures within the limit of the resources made available to it to achieve the progressive realisation of a right to education. One of the key resources that enable the Ministry to fulfill its mandate is a teaching force that can continuously engage the clients on their educational journey namely its teachers.
Since my appointment as Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr. Speaker Sir, in September 2021, I have been seized with the matter of conditions of service for teachers. I have met unions in the education sector towards the end of 2021 to discuss conditions of service for teachers and seek their views. At the end of the meeting, I requested the unions to prepare their submissions to Government on the same. One of the unions fortunately presented its position and other unions concurred that it was representative of their position. On the basis of this submission I engaged the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to discuss the unions’ proposals. At this point, I was advised that Government was already working on some package. This is about the time that Government then announced that it was going to pay civil servants bonuses in hard currency.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I managed to meet the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare this year on the same subject. The Minister indicated that some proposals would be met but this will be done under the auspices of the National Joint Negotiation Council. I also engaged the Public Service Commission Chairperson and Commissioners to discuss the draft position paper and other related issues.
The week before schools were set to open, when it became apparent that there would be problems with the opening of schools as teachers had started talking about incapacitation, I raised the issue again with the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and then escalated it to the Acting President.
On the opening day (7th February 2022), when statistics from the Permanent Secretary and other officials from my Ministry indicated that schools would not open and function normally, I raised the issue with the Acting President who summoned the Ministers of Finance and Economic Development, Public Services, Labour and Social Welfare, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and myself to a meeting.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the meeting of the Ministers culminated in the announcement of the most recent package by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. The Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and myself accompanied the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. I am now showing on the board an analysis that we have produced as a Ministry on the daily attendance of teachers post the announcement of the new package.
Trend Analysis of Attendance since Opening Day.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
|No.||Province||07/02||08/02||09/02||10/02||11/02||14/02||15/02||16/02||Average weekly tr. attendance|
On average on the list, Masvingo Province were attending at least 85.4% teachers were attending lessons followed by Manicaland which has 70% attendance, Mashonaland East had 57.3%. The rest were 50% and below. The average attendance for the whole country, all 10 provinces was 54.6% which is very low. We expected the attendance to improve and the figures that we have thereafter rose from 45.8% on Thursday the 10th of February 2022 to 65.6% on the 16th of February this month.
When some teachers continued not to report for duty after the announcement of the new improved package, Cabinet agreed that a Committee of Ministers and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission come up with a statement that summarises the Cabinet position on this issue, which statement is in the public media today. Government took into consideration that teachers were getting paid on Friday the 18th of February and they can take advantage of the weekend to travel to their respect workplaces and those teachers who genuinely did not have money to travel to their schools should have gone back to work by Tuesday 22nd February 2022.
I will now move on to the Cabinet resolution on issues in the Education sector as released in the press statement by the Public Service Commission yesterday. I seek your authority to proceed Hon. Speaker.
THE HON. SPEAKER: You can go ahead.
HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: Please allow me to read this slowly but surely, – verbatim. The opening of schools has brought to the fore the importance of safeguarding the inalienable right of every Zimbabwean child to an education as provided for in section 75 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. It is within this context that Government has in its effort to improve the welfare of workers continued to engage with the workers’ representative in the National Joint Negotiation Council. The National Joint Negotiation Council meeting held on the 11th February, 2022 welcomed the directive by His Excellency the President Cde. E. D. Mnangagwa to improve the Government to its employees’ relations through a combination of monetary and non-monetary incentives.
In the category of non-monetary benefits, teachers would benefit from the school fees exemption to cover 3 children per family. Plans were also announced to construct institutional accommodation for teachers at and around the school premises. This will be a total of 34 000 units over a 5-year period. Mr. Speaker Sir. Government shall maintain the current vehicle duty free privilege to civil servants. Advancement awards within grades which had been suspended for some time will be resumed with immediate effect to recognise seniority. Government notes with concern that in spite of the significant steps it has taken to improve conditions of service, working with the APEX Council, some teachers continue to absent themselves from work with some reporting for duty but not working.
Mr. Speaker Sir, this has had the effect of depriving learners of their inalienable right to education as well as prejudicing parents of their significant investment in their children’s education. This behaviour, Mr. Speaker Sir, on the part of some teachers, is all the more distressing in view of the fact that it is coming at a time when learners have already lost more than a month of learning in 2022 due to COVID-19 pandemic and were therefore looking forward to the opportunity to catch up with their studies.
Such behaviour cannot be tolerated as it will have a lasting negative impact on the whole generation of our children. It is in this context that Government is taking the following measures which were published today in the media that all teachers, deputy heads and heads of schools who do not report for duty by Tuesday, 22 February, 2022 will be deemed to have resigned from service.
Those reporting for duty but not teaching will also be deemed to have resigned. All those who will have in that manner so resigned and were occupying institutional accommodation are expected to vacate the same with immediate effect. Unemployed trained teachers, university and college graduates in the science, engineering, technical vocational areas and other disciplines interested in joining the teaching profession should ensure that they are registered at the nearest district education offices as the recruitment process shall begin soon after 22nd February, 2022 and those deemed to have resigned shall not be eligible for this recruitment. Government has taken the position that it will work with those who demonstrate their commitment by performing their duties at all times to serve the nation.
The Government of Zimbabwe continues to work towards the provision of inclusive, equitable quality education for socio-economic transformation by 2030. Pursuant to this, the School Improvement Grant (SIG) which has been in place since 2013 has continued to target the most fragile schools where parents are less able to pay fees and levies. The SIG allocation for 2022 amounts to US$12 million. The Ministry is also grateful that this year’s ZW$4.1 billion allocation for the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) is almost double the 2021 allocation, meaning we will be able to assist more vulnerable children than last year.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the Ministry has also been dealing with effects of natural disasters which have hit the country in the recent past. As you are aware Cyclone Idai, and this year there was Ana, destroyed a number of schools and violent storms have also become a menace in the recent past, especially in Mashonaland Central and Matabeleland South Provinces. As a result, financial support has also been directed towards the rehabilitation of these schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the education sector hard with prolonged school closures and infection, prevention and control measures meaning more funding was needed in the schools for boreholes, infrastructure masks, disinfectant and sanitisers among others. We have, as a Ministry, received support from Government, our partners and stakeholders which we are very grateful for. Mr. Speaker Sir, I submit.
THE HON. SPEAKER: In terms of procedure, I will now invite questions for clarifications.
HON. T. MOYO: Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir. I want to thank the Hon. Minister for the statement. I seek clarification on a few issues. The first one concerns the measures that the Ministry is going to take to make up for lost time. I am sure the learners have lost a lot of time because of prolonged closure of schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic and now because of industrial action, they are also losing a lot of time violating their rights to education. What measures are going to be put in place by the Ministry after the 22nd to ensure that lost time has been made available for the learners?
The second area that needs clarification is who is going to supervise or to monitor deputy heads and headmasters after the 22nd? Do you have capacity as a Ministry to visit all schools because I am aware that a number of headmasters are participating in this strike? Then on non-monetary benefits – the issue of housing, stands and flats…
THE HON. SPEAKER: Hon. Member, you are overstepping your right to ask for clarification, you are now debating.
HON. T. MOYO: No, I am seeking clarification.
THE HON. SPEAKER: You are now debating. Others also want to seek clarification.
HON. T. MOYO: The last point Hon. Speaker.
THE HON. SPEAKER: I will indulge you because you are the Chairman.
HON. T. MOYO: Thank you. I want to know about security of tenure for accommodation that is going to be provided to those teachers. I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.
HON. MPARIWA: Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir.
THE HON. SPEAKER: Please be pointed.
HON. MPARIWA: Yes, Hon. Speaker Sir. Let me just acknowledge the speed that the Minister has taken in terms of coming with a response as per the request of the House.
The clarification that I want to find out from the Minister is on the non-monetary benefits, the institutional accommodation of 34 000. What is the criterion that Government will use in order to ensure that there is regional balance in terms of beneficiaries of the 34 000 housing units. Thank you.
HON. KWARAMBA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. My question to the Minister of Education is that we have seen the list of attendance that you have shown us on the screen. I would like to seek clarification on what measures the Hon. Minister is taking to ensure that actual teaching is taking place because most of the schoolchildren where I come from are just going to school, the teachers will be there but they are not conducting lessons. Is the Hon. Minister aware that this is what is happening at schools? Thank you.
(v)HON. WATSON: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I want the Hon. Minister to clarify on the grants made to schools that are deemed to be needier than others because of parental poverty. What are they intended to be used for because they are not very apparent in terms of text books and issues like that. Thank you.
THE HON. SPEAKER: Hon. Minister, did you talk about availability of text books in your presentation?
HON. E. NDLOVU: No, I did not talk about that.
THE HON. SPEAKER: Hon. Watson, we must stick to…
(v)HON. WATSON: Could the Hon. Minister clarify what the grants that are given to the needier schools are used for, she mentioned this in the Ministerial Statement. Thank you.
THE HON. SPEAKER: I hope the Hon. Minister mentioned that but I do not recall, I will give you the benefit of the doubt.
(v)HON. DUTIRO: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I want to seek clarity on the structuring of the school holiday because we have realised that most of the learning disturbances were emanating from COVID-19 which spread very fast during the cold season. I have realised that the holiday system has excluded the cold winter where children as young as four years go to school. I want to seek clarity…
THE HON. SPEAKER: Order. Can you speak to what the Hon. Minister stated in the statement?
(v)HON. DUTIRO: Yes, it also concerns the issues of holidays and COVID-19 Hon. Speaker.
THE HON. SPEAKER: How does that relate to teachers and schools? I strike down your question please – think of another one.
HON. MADHUKU: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. I would like to seek some clarification from the Hon. Minister on the issue of payment of school fees for three biological children. We have circumstances where some teachers have not been blessed enough to have children but they are also rendering service. So we think these are disregarded. Some are not married and in other cases we have teachers who no longer have children attending school – maybe they have graduated but these teachers also need to benefit. My question is whether the Ministry could look into such issues so that these teachers also benefit because they are rendering very important service. Thank you.
HON. NDUNA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I want to know from the Hon. Minister what will be the fate of those teachers and headmasters that are refusing to admit children into their schools? Those that have attended Grade 7 and have got higher points than those schools require?
THE HON. SPEAKER: Does this question arise from the ministerial statement?
HON. NDUNA: Those who are refusing admittance of those children into those schools, I have bunched them into the class of teachers that the Hon. Minister referred to that are being delinquent, those that are not coming to school, those that are coming to school and not teaching. Therefore, I seek clarity on those that are not admitting children into those schools turning them away because of high points at Grade 7.
(v)HON. MARKHAM: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. The Hon. Minister mentioned BEAM. Can the Hon. Minister confirm that the two billion dollars that was allocated for last year was received by the Ministry?
HON. T. MLISWA: I am seeking clarity from the Hon. Minister in terms of the time span of this impasse of the remuneration and welfare of the teachers. Is firing or suspending the teachers who are not reporting for work healthy in any way and what guarantee is there that those that are going to replace these teachers will be happy with the remuneration being offered? What guarantee is there to bring this to a logical conclusion?
The suspended teachers; yesterday the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare was very clear in that if they do not attend work by the 22nd February, 2022, they will be fired but they have been suspended already by the Ministry before they are fired. Does the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education have the power to suspend these teachers? For example…
THE HON. SPEAKER: Order! Hon. Member, the question is understood, otherwise you will give examples of all those teachers you know in your constituency who have been suspended or are allegedly suspended.
HON. TOGAREPI: Firstly, I would like to thank the Minister’s proactive approach to this problem by engaging various stakeholders to come up with what Government has offered our teachers. I would like the Minister to clarify whether this time around we will follow through our warning to teachers, that after the 22nd those who are not in agreement will go home for good.
HON. MBONDIAH: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I seek clarity from the Hon. Minister regarding the accommodation of teachers where the Hon. Minister said teachers who are not reporting for duty should vacate accommodation with immediate effect.
HON. GABBUZA: I just want to know if the Minister was able to calculate all the things that they are offering to the teachers, the houses, duty free cars and all the other free things. How much will these cost if it is converted to money, how much additional salaries can that be on the teachers’ salary?
Secondly, the Minister indicated that there was an agreement, they consulted with unions and agreed with their position paper that if these issues that the Hon. Minister and the Ministry are offering, if they came from the teachers and they agreed, why are they still on strike?
HON. L. SIBANDA: Why did the Ministry suspend teachers whilst they know very well that teachers are incapacitated? Secondly, the ZUPCO buses are cheap, but are these buses going to reach all rural schools and if yes, how about the groceries? I thank you.
THE HON. SPEAKER: Those are the questions raised Hon. Minister. I have gone through my list. May I ask you to respond according to the questions raised for clarification?
THE MINISTER OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION (HON. DR. E. NDLOVU): Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I would like to thank all the Hon. Members who have put questions forward.
I will start with Hon. Mpariwa, was she the first one? The Hon. Chairman of the Committee on Education asked about the measures that we are taking to address loss of time for the children during the period that we had COVID and the current strikes. What we did Mr. Speaker Sir, is we worked with the development partners to come up with a compressed syllabus in order to address the short terms that we resulted with.
Then we also came up with online learning programmes as a solution and these are ongoing.. We are also assisted by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services by making sure that all the schools that do not have ICT gadgets and electricity; we facilitate by donations from the particular ministry and its parastatals. I think most of you have seen them going into our schools, donating computers and also facilitating access to electricity within schools. We are also very grateful to the Ministry of Energy and Power Development who have been cooperating with us on that issue.
We introduced radio and television lessons. I think some of you have seen and heard them. The development partners also assisted us so that we could have those sticks that pupils use to listen to the lesson. Teachers can do that at community level.
In terms of the monitoring of our teachers, we have the District Schools Inspectors (DSIs), then we have the Provincial. Of course, we start with the Provincial Education Directors (PEDs) who supervise the District Schools Inspectors; those are the people working on the ground. We get those statistics through them. As you are aware, one of the Hon. Members asked what we are going to do since the headmasters are not cooperating. We are using some members of the community, very responsible who took it upon themselves to give us information on who is attending lessons and who is not conducting lessons.
Mai Mpariwa, on monetary criteria to ensure the beneficiary is the same – [HON. KWARAMBA: It is Hon. Mpariwa.] – The non-monetary I think we have got – [(v)AN HON. MEMBER: Hon. Minister, it is not mai Mpariwa but Hon. Mpariwa.] – the Public Service Commission has got staff on the ground who monitor and they also complete application forms for these benefits, that is the housing benefit, the motor vehicle scheme; those are some of the non-monetary benefits. I hope I got her question, if I have not answered you; please you can raise a new question.
THE HON. SPEAKER: The Hon. Member. You do not say her but the Hon. Member.
+HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: I did not take note of the question thinking I had responded to the question earlier. Mr. Speaker Sir, Hon. Kwaramba, the list of attendance that we
were showing you there is very doubtful even to us, the Ministry. We have received information that some of these people are just attending and not teaching by the villagers themselves. The villagers call my office, my contact is very popular because I was at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises so a lot of people know me and I am still using the same contact. So they call and tell us that we are being lied to, these people are just seated. At times we are informed that it is the headmaster who is turning away teachers. Even the teachers are calling to say, what can I do? This was especially so after my statement of suspension, most teachers called to say, what should we do seeing as we are being advised by the headmaster not to report for duty? Endai kumba, murikutsvagei pano?
So it is a problem, when you have got a manager who is unionized, how do you work?
Heads of schools, their deputies and senior teachers are my managers on the ground who are supposed to be helping and assisting me to get things happening. I was shocked to find that they are unionized in this country. Where in this world are managers unionized? I am yet to hear from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). I think I will seek clarity on this one from the International Labour Organisation… – [(v)HON. T. MLISWA: On a point of order Mr. Speaker Sir!] – Mr. Speaker Sir, Mr. Austin – we are also using …
THE HON. SPEAKER: Order, order. Hon. Minister, can we hear the point of order from Hon. Mliswa?
(v)HON. T. MLISWA: Mr. Speaker Sir, my point of order is what does the Hon. Minister mean when she says they are unionized? Can she clarify that because I do not know what it means?
THE HON. SPEAKER: You are out of order because if you are not clear, you wait for the Hon. Minister to finish the responses. You are given a second chance to seek clarification. Thank you.
(v)HON. T. MLISWA: I stand guided Mr. Speaker Sir.
HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. Hon. Kwaramba, we have taken a whole Government approach in monitoring the schools. The Ministry was monitoring on its own but now we have decided to take a whole Government approach. Each institution will be reporting to their respective Ministers regarding the situation on the ground. As a group of Ministers, we then analyse the information. That is the approach that we have taken as Government to make sure that we get correct statistics regarding attendance. We are also appealing to parents to phone or visit our offices to report those teachers who will not take up the offer to go back to schools and teach.
Hon. Watson, on grants made to schools, I am new in the Ministry but I visited various schools in rural areas that have benefited from this grant. I think in my statement that this grant will assist children from poor families because they cannot afford to pay levies which are usually used for infrastructural purposes. Part of the levies goes towards the running of the school. I cannot list off the cuff the areas the investments that are directed to schools but I know that I found in one of the schools, bricks that were bought through that particular scheme of grant aid.
On restructuring of school holiday systems that affected the winter holiday, yes we restructured because we were late in opening, we had to cut the first term shorter and made the second and third term longer. That affected the holidays, I hope it is appreciated because we lost one month this year, so we are trying to cover up and we are now losing more than one month because of the strike.
Hon. Madhuku asked about the three biological children, yes it is nature, when we grow old, we do not have children so we took it into account that those can give service to the nation. They have grandchildren but they are not biological children. Hon. Nduna on the issue of schools which are refusing to admit children from Grade 7 to Form one, we need evidence from the Hon. Member so that we can come up with administrative measures to correct the situation.
On the allocation of the 2 billion, the Ministry did not receive all of it but this year, let me assure Hon. Members that we are committed to pushing for the release of the allocated resources timeously. We have so far received some of our money. I think the releases were very slow last year and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development has assured us that as long as we have put committees to come up with budgets for each session, they will timeously release our money. We also encourage you as Parliamentarians, to help also push the Ministry of Finance to assist us with the relevant resources timeously.
Hon. Mliswa raised the issue of the package, that this has taken a very long time. When I was appointed Minister by His Excellency, he told me that I should push this agenda because the negotiations had been going on for a long time and we had to address this. I made sure that this package is negotiated and finalised. I think if it was at a rally, I was going to ask you to clap hands for me. I pushed and the impasse started when we were about to write examinations last year. Actually that pushed me to negotiate with the Unions because they were demanding that they must be paid an allowance for invigilation and I informed them that they cannot just say we want an incentive, I asked them to come and discuss the issue. That resulted in us receiving some submissions from one of the unions but it had been going on for a long time. Of late, they escalated the issue by not attending to students.
On what guarantee there is that the new employees will not strike, of course we cannot talk of guarantees but we are saying those people are unemployed, most of our graduates are loitering on the streets and we hope that they are patriotic enough to sympathise with the young children in our society. We cannot guarantee that they will not strike but we assure you that some of our children who are not working, if given an opportunity, they can do well for us.
I want to thank Hon. Togarepi for the comment, I am quite sure that this time around, we hope that attendance will improve. Personally, I believe that at times as human beings, we feel for others. I hope that the teachers will feel for our children and go back to school and feel for the parents. These are our future leaders, tomorrow’s parliamentarians, tomorrow’s ministers, tomorrow’s doctors to mention but a few.
Hon. Mbondiah asked about accommodation for teachers. The question did not come out clearly but I will try to answer by saying that one of the conditions for going back to work, if one has not gone back to work surely the circular says, if you have not gone back to work, it means automatically you have resigned. If you have resigned, you have to vacate that accommodation immediately after 22 February 2022.
Hon. Binga -I call you Mr. Binga.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon Gabbuza. It is not parliamentary Hon. Minister.
HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: My apologies. I withdraw again. Hon. Gabbuza, this morning we sat down with our staff when we were finalising our presentation. We said what we should have done is that we should have compiled the value of non monetary benefits and then looked at the variance and see if it is justified for them to say it is not enough. That is an exercise that we are doing. This afternoon, my officials were doing that and trying to link up with the Ministry of Finance to make sure that we come up with actual figures of the benefits that accrue to them.
Whilst still on strike, one of the demands from teachers was that sometime back when US$1 was equivalent to Z$1, they were given US$540 which in actual fact was not US$. They are claiming that they were given that US$540 and they are still demanding that they be paid that US$540. That is where it comes – that benefits – can we calculate those benefits against that US$540 and see if the actual cash that we are paying and the benefits match that demand. It is a good idea to sit down and calculate.
Towards the end of the year, I heard the National Joint Negotiating Forum agreed that Government should give them at least US$185 in hard cash and that US$185 in hard cash, Government so far has offered them US$175 against US$185. There is a shortfall of US$10 from the demands that they put in the Joint Negotiation Committee. When we calculate all these figures, it will take us somewhere to try and reason with our staff to make sure that they go back to work and do their national duty.
On whether ZUPCO buses will reach all teachers and how about groceries – on groceries I do not know. On ZUPCO buses, we have said every month end if teachers want to go to town to buy their groceries, they will be given a coupon or card which is used to board ZUPCO buses. I am sure you are all aware that ZUPCO has subcontracted some bus companies to also provide transport in rural areas. We believe that we will have more buses in towns and other smaller kombis under the ZUPCO label in the rural areas to assist the teachers to come to town and buy their groceries. I hope and believe that I have responded. I hope that you can allow me to rest my case now.
HON. RAIDZA: Thank you very much Madam Speaker. My point of clarification is with regards to a permanent solution. It looks like as we are moving from the COVID pandemic, we are getting another teaching pandemic as well. I want to hear from the Minister the permanent plans that they are having as a Ministry to make sure that our children will not lose time again in the education sector. Whenever the schools are opening, they come again and say we are striking. When they want to write examinations either in November or June, there is an issue and strike again. What plans is the Ministry having to make sure these issues do not recur again?
(v)HON. MUSHORIWA: I want to seek clarification from the Minister. The first clarification from the Minister is to say, if in your letter you had indicated that if teachers do not report by the 22nd so that you allow them to travel after they got their pay on the 18th, technically it means that the schools and children are starting to learn on the 22nd. Given that the school calendar had already been publicised, is there any leeway to amend that calendar so that the school days are increased?
The second clarification comes from your response pertaining to the actions of the heads and deputies whom you said are managers and they are supposed to be helping you. Does remuneration and packages of these heads and deputies qualify them to be managers or they easily associate themselves with ordinary teachers because there is no difference in terms of the package?
The last issue I want to seek clarification on is to say, if the teachers have been demanding US$540 and the amount of money that they are getting is less than US$200. Do you not think Hon. Minister, that our children are going to continue to suffer especially the children of the poor because there is no way you can remove the children from these public schools and yet those that are rich will have the leeway to take their children to a private school? I thank you.
(v)HON. GANDAWA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I wanted to seek clarity from the Minister. In her presentation, she indicated that on STEM subjects they are going to recruit graduates from universities. Why is it so when you have got teachers who are trained in STEM subjects? Why is there an appetite to pick graduates in the streets who are not trained yet we have got teachers from teaching institutions that are still roaming the streets?
Secondly, the intervention or solution that she came up with, to have online learning to recover the lost time for our students who have not been in class – I need clarity from the Minister, how effective is this in our rural communities where there is no power and computers in schools? I understand ministries of ICT have been equipped with computers but confined to mostly urban schools and not schools in the remote villages. What is the Ministry doing to assist those schools in remote areas where there is no activity, radio or television? I thank you.
(v)HON. SARUWAKA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to seek clarification from the Hon. Minister, to understand how she thinks the heavy-handed approach of the Ministry, which started by illegally suspending and then threatening to fire teachers and replace them with inexperienced teachers, will help to introduce better learning in our schools especially if the idea is to recruit from unemployed graduates, some of whom do not have any sort of teaching experience. Will that lead to any learning for our children?
I also wanted to understand the approach by the Ministry or Government, whether it is intended at helping our children or the idea is simply to open schools and present a picture of learning in schools. Do they really believe that approach will lead to better learning for our children?
Lastly, I simply wanted to understand from the Hon. Minister whether she does not think it is prudent that she issues an apology for having overstepped her mandate when she reportedly fired the teachers. What it has done is that it has plunged the education sector into darkness. Is she going to apologize to the teachers, to the nation and parents for having taken the wrong step?
*HON. NYABANI: When negotiating with these teachers’ unions, do you then come to report to the public what you would have agreed with these teachers’ representatives? I see a problem when you say we have agreed this and that and then the teachers’ representatives will come out and say we never agreed on that. It was a good idea like we used to see in the past when you would sit in meetings with these people and you make it public so that when they come back and say we never agreed, it will be in the public domain. If you do that we will not see any problems. I thank you.
HON. B. DUBE: Thank you very much Madam Speaker. My supplementary is just to get clarity from the Minister on the labour ideology to the fact that the Ministry is implementing and whether or not it is a sustainable one where every time you will then get disagreements with your employees, you will be threatening to fire and replace them. Is it a sustainable ideology and is there any example of implementation in any part of the world where things of this nature are actually being implemented, where if there is a disagreement you threaten to fire en masse and if the new ones come and do the same, you will also fire them en masse? Is this sustainable?
(v)HON. MBODIAH: Thank you Madam Speaker. My point of clarification was with regard to the accommodation of teachers where the Hon. Minister mentioned that teachers who do not attend classes on the 23rd will be evicted immediately. My point of clarification is that – is that the normal procedure of eviction because the norm is that you are given three months to vacate any residence? I thank you.
HON. MPARIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker. My first point of clarification will come from the previous question that I posed to the Minister on the 34 000 housing units that the Government will construct. I seek to find out the criteria that the Government will use in order to ensure equal regional distribution for benefits in terms of who is going to benefit and from which region so that there is a balance and that we continue to be attracted from all the reasons.
I am provoked Madam Speaker, to further find out from the Minister whether all the packages that have been laid on the screen in terms of the Hon. Minister’s presentation were agreed to with the National Joint Negotiating Council. I also want clarity on the modalities in terms of the message of the 22nd as a deadline on how the Ministry is going to ensure that every teacher who is on strike gets the message that they must go back to work.
HON. BHUDA-MASARA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like to seek clarity from the Hon. Minister on the following issues, the first one is on the 20% increment that she said is going to be backdated to January and the US$100 will begin in March; why can they not backdate the US$100 to January as well? Then on the US$75 COVID-19 allowance, I would like to seek clarity on whether teachers were not receiving that US$75. If they were not receiving it, why can it not be backdated to when it started?
The last one is on the issue of organisations that the Acting Minister yesterday responded to saying there are some organisations that they have spoken to, those that will provide loans to teachers. I am also saying why can your Ministry not consider buying those vehicles for the teachers and then allow them time to pay back in small amounts. Thank you
(v)HON. T. MLISWA: Madam Speaker first of all, the 20% increment and other benefits – are they enough and back dating again it seems to be a piecemeal, it seems to be a package which is really coming out of a reactionary approach rather than being sustainable because we cannot continue like this. I want to know if this is sustainable?
Secondly, the Minister says headmasters, deputy headmasters are unionised leaders. What does she mean? She also spoke about getting information from parents that teachers and headmasters are not coming to school. Is that a credible source? What is the role of us Members of Parliament or councillors? Are we not the ones to be telling her that we think in my constituency in Norton, this headmaster, this school is doing A, B, C, D. What if these parents have got a tiff with the headmaster or the teachers? Teachers who do a good job are strict. Is this not an opportunity to get rid of them? So to me it is important that the Minister responds to this.
Finally, what is the role of us Members of Parliament? We represent people constitutionally. Do these parents represent people constitutionally? I am quite disappointed that we have not been asked to give reports from our constituencies on schools, teachers and heads who are not doing things in an appropriate manner. I think this is an insult to us Members of Parliament because a fight against the teachers and civil servants is a fight against the country. They have performed well in achieving good results.
Again finally, Madam Speaker, is it really the way to go about solving issues in terms of us giving this the last resort of finance? Does the Ministry have the mandate to suspend because they fall under the Public Service Commission, but she admits she went on to suspend them and is that the right approach to bypass the Public Service Commission? So to me these issues have to be answered because there are those suspended teachers who were suspended by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education through her statement which is illegal in terms of who they report to at the end of the day. Can she also, moving forward, withdraw that suspension statement and allow the necessary institution to do its role.
HON. T. MOYO: Thank you Madam Speaker, I seek clarification on two issues. The first one the Hon. Minister did not respond to it when I raised it. It is on security of tenure for the 34 000 housing units to be built for teachers. Are teachers going to be provided with title deeds for these housing units or not and how different are they from those that are being provided by schools today?
Finally, the issue of recruitment, those who failed to attend to their classes by the 22nd would have fired themselves. So my question is, are we deviating from the centralised way of recruitment? Are we going to decentralise as from 22nd of February? Thank you.
*HON. MADHUKU: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to comment on the issue of those three biological children of teachers who are being paid fees for. Those are some things that cause problems to teachers because if a person is a teacher and he is not gifted with children, will they be punished because they are not going to get the bonuses for children because they did not give birth to any children? Those teachers who do not have children or are barren, are rendering the same services as those who have children. Is it a problem for teachers that are barren? Those are things that are supposed to be taken note of. Their bareness is a curse from God and they are being told that they are not getting anything because they do not have any children.
*THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MAVETERA): Order Hon. Member. Can you withdraw the statement that their bareness is a curse from God?
*HON. MADHUKU: I withdraw that statement that it is a curse that they are barren. What about those who are barren, is it their fault that they are barren? It is painful for teachers who are barren not to be given money because if they have problems in bearing children and they are not getting anything, that will stress them because others will be receiving bonuses for their children. This will demotivate them because they will be saying let those that are not barren teach the children because I am not getting anything in return. Let the teachers’ unions reverse their deals of not paying fees for non-biological children for teachers.
(v)HON. HOUGHTON: Thank you Madam Speaker. The arrangement for getting teachers to their schools in Kariba rural district is not practical. First of all, there is no bus service at all. Secondly, if the teachers are to buy a vehicle on the import duty free scheme, then they would have to buy a 4×4 road clearance vehicle because the roads are very bad and lastly there is no fuel outlet in Kariba rural. There is nowhere for them to buy the fuel. Can the Minister please make some other arrangement to get those teachers to school? Thank you Madam Speaker
(v)HON. NYAMUDEZA: My question is how long will the Government intend to facilitate e-learning in rural schools?
THE MINISTER OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION (HON. DR. E. NDLOVU): Thank you Madam Speaker. The university graduates that we are employing, we considered that we will recruit first of all unemployed teachers. That is the first group of people that we are going to engage and then we move onto the other graduates who have got mathematics, physics and chemistry because we are in short supply in this country of teachers in those fields. So this is also a mitigatory measure to make sure that we meet the requirement of schools.
Most of our schools in rural areas do not have science, mathematics, physics, chemistry and commerce teachers. So recruitment of graduates is to try and address that gap. We will first of all take in the qualified teachers. Where there is no power and no radios, it is unfortunate that with Government’s programme, we want to make sure that all rural areas can access our local radios. Where there is no power, I think we are trying to work with the Ministry of Energy and Power Development and the Ministry of ICT to make sure that we use solar and we install solar panels to facilitate access to ICT programmes.
On the heavy handed approach – I really want to emphasise that taking teachers that are not experienced, we saw it after independence. We took Form 2s, Standard 6 and they were teaching in our schools when we came back from the liberation struggle. We had no teachers and we did not have enough teachers but we were pushing for the construction of schools and for children to go back to school. We recruited untrained teachers and some of us were untrained teachers to make sure that we close the gap.
I think Hon. Mliswa has asked me to apologise. I cannot apologise because I was delegated the responsibility by the Public Service Commission when they wrote officially to my Ministry to say the Permanent Secretary should suspend those people. I made the statement of behalf of Government. I did not make a statement as Minister of Primary and Secondary Education but was making the statement on behalf of Government.
(v)HON. MUSHORIWA: On a point of order Madam Speaker. When you gave us the chance to ask for clarification, we stood and we raised the questions but it appears as if the Hon. Minister was not even recording or hearing our questions and she is jumping from one MP to the other. I am just wondering why it is like that because Hon. Raidza came first, I came second and I am still waiting for my response and now she is calling for Hon. Mliswa. I am not so sure why she is doing that.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: I think before you raised your point of order, she had said Hon. Raidza’s question. So she was just going to your question. Let us give her an opportunity so that at least we can be able to see if she is not going to respond to all the questions.
HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: Thank you Madam Speaker. Hon. Raidza asked about the permanent plan that we are making to make sure the children have teachers…
(v)HON. SARUWAKA: Madam Speaker, I think the Hon. Minister must take the business of Parliament seriously. Yesterday we had the Deputy Minister of Public Service and it was very clear that the Hon. Minister did not make that statement representing the Public Service Commission but she had done that in her own right as the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education. This is why I have also asked her when she was going to issue an apology. I was disappointed that she has not mentioned my name but all she said was this other Hon. Member. This shows that there is lack of seriousness on the way she is treating the questions and the education sector and the teachers. May she please retract the position that she was representing the Ministry of Public Service because he can represent himself?
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Thank you for that point of order. It is true but I am sure what the Hon. Minister is saying is that she does not employ but it is the Public Service which employs. I think that is why she was responding that way. She was speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Public Service and that is what she is saying.
(v)HON. SARUWAKA: Madam Speaker, I do not want to make a debate out of this but I think you would agree with me that even the State Broadcaster never said the Public Service or what. It was the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education – that is what was communicated by the Government of Zimbabwe. This is why we are saying she must apologise because she was wrongly quoted and she must indicate that and not to make us believe that we are the ones who are mad.
(v)HON. T. MLISWA: Madam Speaker, I think it is part of leadership to apologise when you are wrong. You cannot be stubborn about something. She cannot speak on behalf of that Ministry. The Ministry of Information and Publicity is responsible for gathering the information and hers is not. Hers is Primary and Secondary Education. The Public Service Commission has got its PR officer who can do that and for her to come to this Parliament and lie to us and want to treat us like kids, is not acceptable. We have to hold them accountable and it is important we do our job of representing people. She cannot speak on behalf of the Public Service Commission. Can she show us an affidavit and power of attorney that she has been given that by the Chairperson? It does not work like that.
She is a very Hon. Minister who has a great future and who is passionate about what she does but when you are wrong, you are wrong. She suspended the teachers and she had no right to do that but the Public Service Commission could have done that. The Hon. Deputy Minister Matuke came here and he was speaking and so who do we listen to, the Minister of Public Service Commission or her in terms of the teachers? We are now confused because Hon. Matuke was here yesterday during Question Time and he said they will only be fired if they do not come on the 22nd which means it is under the ambit of that Ministry not her role.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: That is quite noted. I think there is need for clarity here, Hon. Matuke yesterday came and mentioned exactly what the Hon. Minister has done. When Hon. Matuke came yesterday during Question Time he was representing the Ministry of Public Service and Social Welfare which I believe he has got the capacity to be doing that.
Now, I do not think it would be fair for us to be asking for affidavits for us to know who was supposed to say what, especially on a public forum like this. As far as I saw it, it is quite clear that the Hon. Minister is saying he was representing the Minister of Public Service. So, as Parliament to then say we need an affidavit to see where the Hon. Minister got the powers to do that, I think we will be going out of line. The Hon. Minister is saying she was representing the Ministry of Public Service and it was not within her capacity, she was doing it on behalf of the Public Service Commission.
Hon. Minister did you say anything contrary?
HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: Yes.
HON. T. MLISWA: Madam Speaker, take note that this is a Parliament of records, I am going to bring that out and I want to know who is supposed to be speaking on behalf of the Ministry in charge of Public Service Commission. If the Hon. Minister has dual role then we must know because when there is an acting Minister in Cabinet it is announced. The Hon. Minister is contradicting herself and it creates confusion moving forward, that is why we need to know how we are going to move forward when there is no clarity of knowing who the authority is really.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: To respond to you Hon. Saruwaka and Hon. Mliswa, we need to understand that in the Executive and the Cabinet, there is what we call collective responsibility of which any Minister can be able to represent another especially on issues of national interest. So, that is why the Hon. Minister had to act in that capacity.
HON. B. DUBE: On clarity relating to that, the Public Service Commission is an independent institution; it is not supposed to be having the Cabinet as its spokesperson. The Public Service Commission does its own things, it is the employer that we are talking about and that answer may not directly respond to the issues that the Hon. Members have raised because in any event even if it was the Minister of Public Service, still he is not the employer.
Public Service Commission is an independent institution in terms of the Constitution and it has powers to hire and fire its employees in terms of the laws of this country and not the Minister. That responsibility cannot be delegated by the Commission to the Cabinet, that is the intention of the Legislature and they established the Commission, the intention was to make sure the Minister is not the employer.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: I think the Hon. Minister was clear when she presented her statement. She said this is a Cabinet directive.
HON. B. DUBE: Madam Speaker, the point I am making is, Cabinet itself cannot even decide or agree to make a decision on behalf of the Public Service Commission. The costs for these blunders will come to the tax payer because already they will be sued in court and they have no leg to stand on. My point is – is it correct that the Public Service Commission can be represented by Cabinet on the status of its employees? The answer is no. I do not want us Madam Speaker to be acting outside the law by pacifying illegalities. The Public Service Commission is the employer and it is a statutory establishment in terms of the Constitution, so is Cabinet and Parliament. There is nowhere it is explained by the Hon. Minister where those powers derive from because even when you are suing, you sue the Public Service Commission.
So, it is these ideological concoctions that lead to all these problems where people end up doing things that are outside their mandate and their constitutional obligations. We believe what Hon. Saruwaka said is the smartest thing to do, just apologise for having done the wrong things and allow Public Service Commission to do its own job.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: This issue is in the courts, so let us wait for the courts to be able to decide on that matter.
(v)*HON. T. MLISWA: Yes, because we will soon ask for those Cabinet Minutes. We have the authority to do so over this, where are the Cabinet Minutes? We will now request the Minutes at the top so that we resolve matters.
*THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Thank you Hon. Member, let us wait for the resolution of the matter in the courts. Hon. Minister Ndlovu, you may proceed.
* HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: Thank you. I am lost because this debate has dragged for a long time. I apologise for not noting the names of the Hon. Members who posed questions. I was not writing names unfortunately and I apologise, next time I will write the names. Now and again, I was writing down the names but in most cases I was just writing the question.
The question by Hon. Raidza on a permanent plan to make sure children have teachers; the plan that we have as Government is that we have a continuous negotiation platform under the National Joint Negotiation Committee (NJNC). Even on the day that the Committee met to review the package that had been offered by Government, it was agreed that there would be continuous review of the package as a whole to make sure that we do not go back to the same in future.
On whether we will create time for children to learn – I think that was the question. Unfortunately on time, in some schools for instance, I went to Manicaland Province. The headmasters and teachers agreed to conduct lessons on Saturdays to make sure that children cover their syllabus. Arrangements have been made in other schools to make sure that we cover the time that we have lost.
Then on remuneration of heads, i.e. Headmasters and Deputy Headmasters; recently the Public Service Commission gave responsibility allowances to headmasters – sorry not headmasters but we had allowances for headmasters, yes and then our heads at the Ministry were given allowances – so they are really our managers on the ground.
Hon. Mbondiah asked about the vacation period that is given. According to the law, we are supposed to give three months notice.
I feel constrained now to respond to questions that are supposed to be answered by the Public Service Commission because the House feels that I am not supposed to answer on behalf of the Commission. The package was announced by the Public Service Commission, so I have been constrained and cannot answer that. – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –
The Hon. Member continued to ask about the biological child. Again, I will now refer to the Public Service Commission – [Laughter.] – I think, I cannot respond to the majority of questions – yes, only those that are related to my Ministry like Grant-in-aid. Otherwise, the House is telling me that I should not answer on behalf of Government issues that were discussed in a Cabinet Committee meeting and approved by Cabinet and then assigned to the Public Service Commission …
HON. B. DUBE: On a point of order Madam Speaker Ma’am. It was never alluded in this House that the Hon. Minister must not answer those questions. The point that was just alluded to was that the firing of teachers was an illegality but I do not understand where the Hon. Minister is deriving refusal to respond to questions from. The questions arise from her report in the House.
What we indicated as a House was that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is not the employer of teachers. It is supposed to apologise for having unlawfully fired or threatened to fire teachers. Asking on issues of policy relating to the educational policy, for example if there is a policy in the education system that siblings or offspring of teachers may attend school for free – that is not a Public Service issue. It is actually her Ministry’s issue because it is a policy on education which is affecting whether or not children will go to school and it is within her purview.
The Hon. Minister must answer our questions. It was wrong for her to refuse to respond to our questions simply because we advised her that she erred by taking action against civil servants whilst it was the responsibility of the Public Service Commission to do so. Hence, the Hon. Minister must respond to questions that relate to policy. She must not refuse to answer our questions because policy questions are directed to the Hon. Minister.
HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: Madam Speaker Ma’am, this is a legal mind – a legal mind has spoken that I should not speak on behalf of the Public Service Commission as it is an independent body. I am not refusing to answer the questions but am just speaking about law as it is. I am just going to respond to questions that are directly linked to the Ministry. I am not going to answer anything pertaining to the Public Service Commission. I was only reading what we agreed on as Cabinet. Right now, I am just going to talk about the STEM subjects that states that we are going to recruit teachers to help us and on the issue of power on radio – that is what is within my purview.
The issue of heavy-handedness which is being done, I am not the employer, hence I am not going to answer questions which are related to the Public Service Commission.
On the issue of 34 000 houses and that the package must be directed throughout the country, Hon. Mpariwa, I will make sure that the 34 000 houses are built in various schools throughout the country. Actually, we have 3 000 000 schools which we are constructing so that all people benefit throughout the country. On the issue of 20% salary increment, again, I cannot speak about that issue because it falls under Public Service Commission. It is the only Ministry which can handle and talk about this issue. Hence I cannot comment on that issue. On the issue of security of tenure, the Public Service is responsible for that.
HON. T. MOYO: Madam Speaker, I have realised that issues to do with the welfare of teachers affect the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education as well as Public Service Commission. May I appeal to your esteemed office to invite the Hon. Minister of Public Service to come to this House and present a Ministerial Statement?
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Thank you very much Hon. T. Moyo, the Chairperson of Portfolio Committee of Primary and Secondary Education. I think it is quite prudent that we invite the Minister of Public Service since most of these issues are pertinent and they should be addressed so that he comes and gives us a Ministerial Statement.
HON. E. NDLOVU: On the security of tenure for the houses that we are going to build, we are going to build 34 000, these are institutional accommodation. We also have a guarantee for teachers’ houses so that when they retire, they will be having their own accommodation. That is the scheme that we have and this can be rightfully explained by the Public Service Commission. About Hon. Madhuku’s issue, on those teachers who do not have young children, I have to consult the Committee that I am working with that was put by His Excellency to look at these benefits. On the issue of roads, I will liaise with the Ministry of Transport so that they work on the roads in Kariba so that our teachers can have good roads and also facilitate the issue of fuel. Thank you Madam Speaker.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: This was quite a heated debate and a very pertinent Ministerial Statement. Thank you for presenting it quite well.
(v)HON. BHUDA-MASARA: Thank you Madam Speaker, the Hon. Minister did not answer my question and the issue of online lessons raised by other Members.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Minister, there is the issue of online lessons in the rural areas, it was asked by two Hon. Members.
HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: Madam Speaker, I think I spoke about online lessons and said that we are working very hard with the Ministry of ICT and the Ministry of Energy and Power Development to try and have computers in areas where we do not have electricity or radio signals. Where electricity is not available, we are devising new methods of using solar. For example, in Beitbridge last week, we put solar in schools that had no electricity. I thank you Madam Speaker.
(v)HON. T. MLISWA: I want to commend the Minister for her approach towards this session. It has given me some understanding that she is totally competent and passionate about driving education. She is passionate about the welfare of teachers but it is something which also involves other Ministries. Like Hon. Moyo, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee was right to say the Minister of Public Service, Hon. Prof. Mavima must come in to be able to respond to issues of welfare which are not under her ambit. In the end, she was responding to issues which are not under her and it becomes difficult.
I would like to thank you and other Members of Parliament for taking this issue seriously. This is when people say there is a Parliament that represents people, the teachers’ welfare, civil servants and many others. Despite our welfare being bad, we still represent other people. That is nationalism and patriotism of the highest order. May I commend this Parliament for highlighting these issues in a professional manner and putting national interest first? There was no whipping, no nothing, just togetherness and a quest to have a better country and future for our kids. Education is a foundation for the future of any country. I thank you.
(v)HON. HOUGHTON: I have a supplementary question to the response that the Minister gave me on teachers in schools in Kariba. In her response, she said the roads are being attended to and I greatly appreciate but the teachers are expected to be in school on 22nd and that is not going to assist them. Can the Minister try to make some other arrangements to get the teachers in Kariba rural district to school on time?
HON. DR. E. NDLOVU: Thank you Madam Speaker. The request is taken. We will talk to the Ministry of Local Government under whose purview ZUPCO falls to try and facilitate if it is possible. I thank you.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: I am sure this then brings us to the end of the Ministerial Statement brought in by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Hon. Dr Ndlovu. Thank you very much for your indulgence. I think it was quite in time, considering that this was a very pertinent issue. We would like to thank you very much. I am sure the Clerk is going to make sure this is expedited and we will have the Minister of Public Service to come through next week if he is available so that we are not overtaken by events –[AH HON MEMBER: We want him on Tuesday]. I have given a leeway. I have ruled that he will give us next week if he is available. We will be able to indulge him. I am sure the Leader of the House will be able to indulge him so that this can be done in the quickest possible time as it can be. Thank you very much Hon Minister for this Ministerial Statement.