Teachers flee poverty datum line

BY MAGUGU NYATHI JOHANNESBURG - The place is calm and peaceful, a gentle breeze lifts up the curtains sending a shaft of light into the room. There is no furniture, water or electricity in the room, only a pile of old blankets and a few books in a corner. This is central Johannesburg, in one of the

dilapidated flats typically occupied by Zimbabweans who have fled to South Africa. Nhlonipho Mudawu is a newly arrived teacher. “For a long time I witnessed the departure of my fellow country men. But I never thought I would leave. I thought the situation was going to improve. But it got worse every day, until it was my turn,” he told The Zimbabwean. With hyperinflation rising to 585.8 percent in December, the new pay for teachers in Zimbabwe falls far below the poverty datum line (PDL) – Z$17.2 million, more than twice what college-graduate teachers are earning. The country’s economic meltdown, caused by well-documented corruption and mismanagement, has seen Zimbabwe’s education sector, which used to be the pride of President Mugabe’s post-independence achievements, crumble beyond recognition. Teachers and students are on the run. There is nothing left to motivate teachers, and parents are not satisfied with the quality of education being offered in most schools. The influx of teachers into South Africa has reached its highest record ever, with the progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, South African Chapter, registering over 400 teachers in the month of January only. “The are an average of 20 teachers registering with the PTUZ-SA every day and this number is likely to increase soon as more teachers are leaving Zimbabwe for greener pastures. These teachers include head masters and college lectures with MBAs,” said Bongani Nyathi, the chairman, in a recent interview. “It’s unbelievable that a government can spend zillions of dollars in training teachers and lose them due to mismanagement. I was still hoping for Zimbabwe’s revival but now I don’t think it can survive without all these key services. First it was engineers, doctors, nurses, defence forces, now the teachers. I wonder who would be next?” said Simba Manyanya Zimbabwean economist and part-time lecturer at Wits University. He said there were more than 10,000 qualified Zimbabwean teachers in South Africa, most of whom were no longer practising teachers. “About 3,000 are employed by private colleges and only a small fraction of no more than 50 are employed by the government. It is obvious from these figures that teachers are the largest professional group outside the country,” he said.

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