Exiled teachers to launch SA Union

BY FIKILE MALIKONGWA

JOHANNESBURG - Millions of Zimbabweans have sought sanctuary in South Africa - many of them highly skilled professionals. They are asking for acceptance, not only as refugees but as skilled people adding value to the economy. Many have come to view thi


s country as their adopted home, identifying with its democratic values, economic policies and sharing the dreams and hopes of its citizenry.
More than 10,000 Zimbabwean teachers in and around Gauteng will launch an association to represent their interests.
Teachers suffered the full brunt of the repressive Harare regime as it slowly but surely lost the support of the majority with its faux pas economic policies. As intellectuals living with the ordinary people, this group found itself blamed for all the discontent expressed by the masses. The rejection of the ill-fated referendum was the final nail in the coffin. The ruling party wanted to co-opt teachers into its party machine. This forced the exodus of tens of thousands of rural teachers. Unfortunately for many, things did not turn out to be rosier down south.
Many Zimbabweans have become naturalized, thanks to the South African government, which allowed all those who had been in the country for more than five years in 1986 and without criminal records to gain permanent residence. This was indeed a true spirit of ‘ubuntu’ in practice.
Sadly, some of these naturalized citizens saw this as an opportunity to venture into money spinning ventures through exploitation of their fellows. They capitalized on the huge demand for schools immediately after the collapse of apartheid and opened private colleges on virtually every street corner in downtown Johannesburg, which they run as their private fiefdoms in total disregard for basic human rights, the country’s labour laws and even the education Act.
While discovering a market gap and exploiting it should be lauded as business acumen, they underlying goals are not compatible with the delivery of such an important basic service. The directors, owners or managers, whatever they choose to call themselves, have no idea of how important education is to the children, the country and the future. All they are interested in the monetary gain. They have exploited the desperation of well-trained, dedicated and helpless teachers and in the process defrauded innocent parents.
They pay highly-trained teachers peanuts, forcing them to live in crowded and dilapidated Hillbrow flats, knowing that they can not seek redress anywhere as most of them are asylum seekers or refugees who have nowhere else to go and are not well acquainted with the labour laws of the country.
Shame on the authorities who should be monitoring the delivery of education to the young ones.
It is a welcome development that these teachers are at last doing something to extricate themselves from their plight. It is imperative that the qualified people who staff these schools be recognized, protected and be well remunerated. They have performed well without resources, without job security and will undoubtedly do wonders if all this in redressed.
However, there is a feeling that many teachers will not be able to attend due various factors including fear of exposing themselves as asylum seekers and attracting the xenophobic attention of locals and the lack of proper information dissemination by the committee. If attendance is poor the fear is that it will hamper the emergence of determined and principled leaders allowing opportunists, populists and others with personal agendas to prevail.
“If only a few people attend they should bear in mind the enormity and complexity of the task at hand when electing office bearers. People who have criminal records at home, people with dubious political and professional backgrounds, people who left the profession back home unceremoniously due to their conduct will undoubtedly dent and tarnish the image of the association and such unscrupulous individuals should be sidelined,” said one observer, Lingani Khuphe.
The interim publicity and spokesperson of the teachers’ association, Khulumani Motsamai, said many stakeholders have been invited to grace the occasion of the launch, including the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), Cosatu, the Gauteng MEC for Education, the national department of education, the CSO, SACC, and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.
He said the new association would be an affiliate of SADTU and align itself to the PTUZ as this was the only union that had not been co-opted by the corrupt ruling party and was championing the cause of the profession without any political allegiance. “This decision will, however, have to be approved or endorsed by the Congress as the supreme policy making body,” added Motsamai.
A brain drain to one country in a brain gain to another and the beneficiary should be grateful and show this by open acknowledgement. The South African government has not poached these teachers but their own government has offloaded them into the wilderness. To the department of education this should be manna from heaven and help do away with the need for scurrying for teachers from other countries as indeed more are still coming as long as the mess in Harare in not sorted out. – Fikile Malikongwa is a former teacher based in South Africa. [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions

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