GOVERNMENT has threatened to take ”appropriate measures” against malcontents among its workforce after schoolchildren at different learning institutions in the country were sent back home yesterday as teachers and school heads failed to report for duty citing incapacitation.
Schools opened on Monday for the first term of 2022.
Last week, some teachers’ trade unions said their members were financially incapacitated to report for duty at the start of the school term.
The teachers and the rest of the civil service have been pushing the government to pay them in United States dollars, arguing salaries in local currency were constantly eroded by inflation and exchange rate movement. But the government has said it cannot afford salaries in foreign currency.
The situation came to a head Monday when most teachers did not report for duty. School heads also joined teachers in declaring incapacitation in a bid to press for United States dollar salaries to cushion them from the rising cost of living.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu said the strike had succeeded, with only a few teachers reporting for work.
“Quite a number of educators have failed to get to work while very few seem to have gone there and mostly these are administrators,” he said.
“When you look at the situation, you can see how dire it is for a very senior teacher to fail to go to work because he has no bus fare to go there.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Bulawayo provincial chairperson Vusumuzi Mahlangu said they also conducted a survey and found out that most teachers did not turn up for duty.
In Chinhoyi, school heads sent children back home since there were no teachers to monitor classes.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said: “It is apparent that no teaching is taking place in over 96% of our schools. Some of the teachers who reported for duty were saying that they will not be reporting for work tomorrow.”
Educators Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Tapedza Zhou said: “We are aggrieved that our kids are unnecessarily losing out on their right to education. Our innocent teachers deserve to be paid enough to be able to attend to our innocent learners.”
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said: “Schools opened today with no word from the employer on the US dollar salaries for the dedicated suffering teacher. The market is refusing Zimdollars and we demand that all workers be paid in US dollar as dictated by the market.”
Primary and Secondary Education secretary Tumisang Thabela, however, claimed that the majority of teachers and pupils had turned out.
“Government is pleased to note that schools have opened, that the majority of teachers reported for duty and that the majority of schoolchildren were able to attend classes,” she said in a statement.
“In instances where students and pupils were unable to attend, government awaits definitive information on the reasons, so as to respond appropriately.”
She claimed that learners were barred from entering school premises “in a few instances”, and threatened to take ”appropriate measures” against the malcontents.
“Deliberate interference with that right is a grave affront to the child, as well as to parents and guardians, apart from being an act of misconduct that cannot be tolerated. Consequently, appropriate measures will be taken in line with relevant procedures,” she said.
The ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro told NewsDay: “We had a 60% turnout of teachers nationwide. Those that did not report for duty are from metropolitan areas, while teachers from peri urban and rural areas reported for duty. Other teachers are still en route to their stations.”
Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mavima said the government, while equally hard-pressed, was always willing to meet the teachers and rest of the civil servants half way when it came to salaries and conditions of service.
“We want teachers to understand that the government is committed to solving their issues. We have a negotiation process taking place. A government team is consulting with principals and this is not just for teachers but the entire civil service,” he said.
“So as we do those considerations, teachers, headmasters and the teachers unions leadership should urge members to go back to work and come to the negotiating table so that we can resolve this as a nation; rather than holding the nation at ransom and jeopardising the future of this country by not delivering one of the most important elements, which is education.”
He added: “When everything is said and done, they should not hold the nation at ransom. It is the future of this country at stake.”
Mavima said the government negotiating team was due to meet on Monday to come up with an offer to table to civil servants when they hold the next round of negotiations.
“We are going to the meeting today, and we are hopeful that at this meeting we will come up with a clear position as to what mandate the government is going to give to its team so that it can go back to the negotiating table,” he said.