Zimbabwe teachers have defiantly vowed not to set foot on their workplaces next Monday when schools begin the phasal reopening for Term 3 amid reports that the Government has now resorted to unorthodox forms such as bribery and intimidation in a bid to drive the aggrieved, underpaid educators back into the classroom.
The country’s schools were prematurely closed for the First Term on March 24, 2020 following the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic four days earlier.
Recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Harare administration decreed that the institutions of learning be opened in phases after a six-month coronavirus induced closure.
But the proclamation of the gradual reopening of schools has been met with resistance by the teachers who continue to expressly indicate to their employer that the paltry monthly salaries they get ‘cannot breathe’ in face of a harsh economic environment which has rendered their local currency earnings to as little as US$30 per month.
As it is fast dawning on the financially challenged Government that the teachers are not prepared to commit to their call of duty anytime soon unless they get a cushioning Covid19 allowance and a proposed monthly salary range of between US$500 and US$520, reports say cornered Harare has now resorted to bribing the educational administrators while using intimidation in its desperate pursuit to force the dissenting teachers back to work.
In a questionable move dismissed as ‘oppressive generosity’ on the part of the underfire Mnangagwa Government, it is alleged that the state has been greasing the hands of directors with soft loans amounting to as much as $200 000 each so that they force the teachers to report for duty starting Monday 28 September 2020.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Ptuz) president, Dr Takavafira Zhou described as futile, the decision by Government to provide soft loans to the Directorate at both provincial and national levels.
The $200 000 soft loans, Dr Zhou said, are accessible within five days of application. He said even if the Directorate were going to be offered aeroplanes to influence them to return back to work, the teachers were not going to succumb to any sorts of pressure.
Sources say the educational directors started to receive the said soft loans Wednesday this week.
“As a United Front of teachers in general and Ptuz in particular, we want to make it clear that this attempt to oil the directorate to drive teachers back to schools is futile. We urge the directorate that (government’s) oppressive generosity to them must never be abused against teachers. Let it be known to the few members of the directorate that pocketing the $200 000 is no licence to making them adopt an intransigent and irresponsible approach to force teachers to report for work from 28 September 2020,” partly wrote Dr Zhou in a statement yesterday.
“We urge (government) to do the most honourable thing of capacitating teachers and prioritising their health and safety if it dreams of successfully re-opening schools in 2020. Even if every director is given an earoplane and millions of dollars to coordinate the reopening of schools the result would be futile,” declared the outspoken Ptuz boss.
Dr Zhou further quipped that as teachers, they were also warry of the fact that the Covid19 testing that was conducted in the private schools, which opened earlier last week, resulted in a considerable number of learners and their fellow colleagues testing positive to the deadly pandemic with some of them now placed in quarantine centers such as Bonda Mission Hospital.
“Public schools cannot therefore ignore testing before reopening in light of the covid 19 pandemiic prevalence.Teachers remain ready to open schools, but only after addressing their welfare, health and safety concerns. Time is ticking away with (Primary and Secondary Education) Minister (Cain) Matema failing to engage and facilitate the capacitation of teachers,” he said.
“To the teachers of Zimbabwe, the time to make a bold statement and show our poverty to gvt is now. Let our poverty and misery reverberate across Zimbabwe from 28 September 2020. No amount of threat and brutality can stop this incapacitation whose time is up. Our numbers must count and so likewise would our poverty. The gvt must never underestimate the power of poor teachers in their numbers”.
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that the authorities intend to deploy state hired operatives at schools Monday next week, so that they ‘spy’ on ‘disobedient’ teachers who fail to report for duty.
The teachers had previously proposed a latter date, preferably October 26, for the reopening of the country’s schools, citing lack of preparedness in light of the coronavirus scourge which has plagued the struggling southern African nation.