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Teachers cry foul

Teachers unions have called on government to stop operating "as if they are in a military banker" and find a lasting solution to t...

Teachers unions have called on government to stop operating "as if they are in a military banker" and find a lasting solution to the raging salary dispute with the country's educators.
The call comes amid reports the ministry of Primary and Secondary Schools Education headed by minister Lazarus Dokora has send out a circular terminating holiday lessons as well as drastically cutting on incentives given to teachers.

Militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general Raymond Majongwe said by this action, government was ill-treating its workers.

Lazarus Dokora
"We have been told by our members that such an instruction has been given. The colonial masters treated their workers better, they respected them better. You do not run government by barking orders, we need consultation and this circular does nothing, but widen the gap between the employee and the employer," Manjongwe told The Zimbabwe Mail in an interview yesterday.

Permanent secretary in the ministry Constance Chigwamba could neither deny nor confirm the ministry had withdrawn teachers' incentives.

"I do not want to commit myself to something that is not in writing. Send a fax and we will reply, this is a big ministry and I have many divisional directors who handle different issues," said Chigwamba.

Government in February following protracted negotiations with its workers relented, but only to agree to a $79 wage increase for the lowest paid government worker and $54 for the highest paid civil servant. However, this has not been paid with a commitment from government that the increment would be staggered within four months to June this year cumulatively.

Government, according to teachers, had for the past few weeks been sending out a verbal announcement declaring an end to vacation school as well as ordering a massive reduction in incentives.

"There is no circular, the message is coming through ministry officers such as District Education Officers. We were told that any deviation from this policy will attract stern measurers and nobody is willing to rough up the new minister," said a school headmaster in Harare on condition of anonymity.

Majongwe said vacation school and extra-lessons had assisted many children, accusing authorities of a sinister plot to divert "business".

"It is a business plan to divert children to their colleges. It has nothing with a clear policy pronouncement that is supposed to benefit children. It is not a tenable situation. Give us a descent salary and see if anybody will ask for an incentive, these things were not there between 1980 and 1990 and they are not necessary as long as we are paid a salary that is commensurate with the work that we do," said Majongwe.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) president Richard Gundani said government should first pay workers a living wage before scrapping the incentives introduced at the height of the hyper-inflationary era that was characterised by a massive hemorrhaging of trained personnel from government to neighbouring countries.

"The issue of teachers' incentives has always been a double-edged sword. It has benefited some and not others, but the solution has never been to just wake up and scrap it off," Gundani said. "It leaves a sour test in the mouth. While the application of the policy has always been haphazard, we are of the opinion that it helped boost morale among teachers and a move such as this one can have devastating effects on the education system. There is need for a sober approach to the issue."

Majongwe called for government to return to the negotiating route rather than seek confrontation.

"It is not too late for Dokora and his team and we have every confidence in them to return to the negotiating table. They need to consult all stakeholders from teachers, parents and all other education sector players to make sure a lasting solution is found. The vacation school was benefiting children because they are taught by the teachers who know their strengths and weaknesses," he said.

Dokora could not be reached for comment as he was reportedly out of the country on duty.

Bulawayo 24

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