Start of new term marred by teachers strike

school_childrenThe start of the new school term has been marred by a strike by some teachers on Wednesday, after members of the leading teachers union refused to return to their posts.

Schools reopened as scheduled on Wednesday, but many classes were suspended because of the nationwide strike. Teachers with the larger of three teachers unions, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), resolved last week not to return to work at the start of term, because of unresolved salary grievances. ZIMTA on Friday said teachers did not want to continue to live in abject poverty and perpetual debt caused by ballooning unpaid domestic utility bills and unaffordable costs of educating their children. The union said on Friday that teachers had been told not to report for work until government agrees to pay them US$300 a month and allowances of US$100. ZIMTA is reportedly also demanding a further US$100 monthly increment to see teachers earning US$500 in December.

A meeting between teachers union and education officials, which was hoped to avoid the mass action, reportedly failed to materialise on Monday. Finance Minister Tendai Biti instead said in an interview that the government does not have the kind of resources to meet the demands of all its civil servants. Minister Biti said the government was operating on limited cash resources with little fiscus space to manoeuvre. He appealed to all civil servants to be patient while the economy grew and tax revenues rose.
Our main priority is to pay the civil servants and from the time we announced salaries for the civil service, about 70 percent or two-thirds of the budget has gone to pay our workers, he said.

The two other teachers unions, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe however this week urged their members not to down tools. The unions met with Education officials on Tuesday to assure them that their members would be back at work as scheduled. The PTUZ has previously said another teachers’ strike would be detrimental to Zimbabwes reputation.
The two unions which attended the meeting assured us that lessons would resume, Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart said in an interview with state media on Tuesday evening.
Regrettably, ZIMTA did not attend the meeting and we assume their members might absent themselves but they should know that it is the children who suffer once again, Coltart continued.
SWRadio Africa

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