No one has ever doubted that teachers have a genuine grievance. Their salaries, like those of every working Zimbabwean, must be reviewed. The government has repeatedly acknowledged that it is reviewing their salaries but they must go back to work. Issues will be resolved while they are teaching our children, instead of holding the children to ransom.
It is therefore the teachers’ approach that some of us are beginning to question. When schools closed last year following the outbreak of coronavirus, teachers continued to receive their salaries though most were not teaching. When the government asked those with examination classes to return to work, some of the teachers started saying they would only return to work after their salaries were reviewed.
This year schools have not been operating since the beginning of the year and the government has said they must open next week. Now one of the teachers unions says teachers will not go back to work unless they are vaccinated and their salaries reviewed.
On hearing this a colleague said that Zimbabwe might be one of the most literate countries in Africa but some of the things our teachers’ unions are demanding makes one question the education because it clearly shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with that education.
This raises another question. What kind of education are our teachers giving to our children when they, or at least their representatives, are using a very uneducated approach to an issue that requires educated people?
Everyone is quite aware that our economy had gone down the drain. The new administration is trying hard to stabilise it but was set back by two disasters, Cyclone Idai and coronavirus.
The government has acknowledged that salaries are low and is working on improving them, but people have to go back to work. Despite these assurances, teachers unions continue to demand wage reviews, and in United States dollars, before going back to work.
After losing nine months of education, one is bound to ask, which sensible person would want to sacrifice the entire nation’s children? Granted we all need money to survive, but are teachers the only persons needing a salary review?
Truth be told, when teachers go on strike they are punishing people in the same boat with them, poor people who cannot afford to send their children to private schools.
Only one answer therefore comes to my mind. Teaching has been invaded by mercenaries, especially at union level, hounds that have realised that they can make more money by making noise rather than through teaching.
According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Zimbabwe had 139 616 teachers in 2019.
Media reports say the Zimbabwe Teachers Association which says it is the largest and most influential teachers union has 42 000 members.
The militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has 15 000 while the highly vociferous Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe says it has just over 5 000.
Who therefore represents the majority of the teachers?
At independence Zimbabwe had only one teachers’ union, ZIMTA, which was a merger of two unions one that had previously represented white teachers and another that represented back teachers. And this was the case for the next 16 years until Raymond Majongwe formed the PTUZ.
As the country’s economy teetered more unions sprung up. There are now eight teachers’ unions.
Who are they representing?
Do they really have members?
If so how many?
If not, how are they surviving?
These are questions that teachers on the ground must ask because they are the ones being represented by these unions. Which one among the eight represents them? Are they members of any?
Normally a union survives on subscriptions from members, so one should ask, can a union really survive on subscriptions from 5 000 members who are complaining that their salaries are too low?
If the unions are not surviving from subscriptions where are they getting their funding?
And why so many unions because if all were as big as ZIMTA, there would just be three or four unions, but even than that would be too many?
The answer is simple. Donors.
Teachers are very influential people in Zimbabwean society. Anyone who wants to influence Zimbabwe society, especially the rural people that constitute nearly 70 percent of the population, can easily do that through teachers.
But is this for the benefit of teachers or the donor?
Even if it is for the benefit of teachers, why fund so many unions?
Simple. For the international community it pays to have more organisations making noise. It creates a picture of chaos, a failing nation unable to grapple with day-to-day matters.
The ultimate beneficiaries are therefore the donors and trade union leaders not the teachers they claim to represent. The union leaders are not paid to improve the lot of the teachers. That is a by-product. They are paid to create chaos.
Teachers indeed have a grievance but it is now time to put children first. All others things will be sorted out. They now run the risk of alienating themselves from parents whose children have already lost a year of education if they persist that they will not go back to work.
Pafunge! Think. It ain’t illegal yet. – Insider