ActionAid plans support for teachers

school_childrenHARARE - Zimbabwes decade-long economic and political crisis has forced some of the countrys long-suffering teachers to risk limb and life to seek fortune in Sudan. (Pictured: Education collapses: Rural children used to walk miles to school every day - but a routine survey of schools in the rural areas, a UNCEF team had fo

They have been making the Great Trek as far as oil-rich Southern Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia in search of fame and fortune that have eluded them after years of toiling in their native Zimbabwe.

Some of our teachers are going to Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia because of the collapse of the education system here and also because their skills are very much in demand in these and other countries, said Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), has told The Zimbabwean. Zimbabwean teachers are currently being paid below the poverty datum line estimated at around US$500 a month.

They take home US$155 a month after government hiked salaries for all civil servants in July from the US$100 allowance they were getting since formation of the countrys coalition government in February.

Southern Sudan is not the average persons perfect idea of an ideal relocation destination. I have decided to leave the profession and join several of my colleagues who have gone to other countries. I realise there is nothing to wait for anymore because it doesnt look like things in the sector will improve anytime soon, said Collen Mwadira, who has been a teacher since 1992 and claims there was nothing to show for his 17 year experience. Zhou said the educators were particularly unhappy about the money allocated to the Ministry of Education for teachers remuneration in the 2010 national budget announced early this month by Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

Biti gave US$600 000 to the ministry for salaries but Zhou the amount would not be enough to meet salary increases demanded by the teachers. It is clear that the amount allocated will not give salary increases of more than 100 percent next year. Given what the teachers are already getting, we dont see teachers salaries being increased above US$300,which will still be way below the poverty datum line Zhou observed.

Non-governmental organisation ActionAid plans to launch a programme next year to entice teachers to work in five of the countrys remote districts. Under the programme, ActionAid would provide hard to work allowances for teachers in Makoni, Nyanga, Wedza, Nkayi and Umzingwane. It also plans to offer cash transfers to teachers in 52 selected schools around the country.

This can be done in a number of ways that include cash vouchers/debit cards/grocery vouchers/smart cards that can purchase the basic needs for a family, ActionAid said in a document seen by The Zimbabwean. The programme would also see the NGO assisting to renovate infrastructure at rural schools with dilapidated classrooms, houses and roads while teachers at selected rural schools would be allocated agricultural inputs.

The United Nation Childrens Fund (UNICEF) earlier this year described the state of Zimbabwes public education sector as a national disaster that needed the urgent attention of the unity government.

In a routine survey of schools dotted around Zimbabwes countryside a UNCEF team had found 66 out of a selected 70 schools abandoned. At the only school that was operational, only a third of pupils were reporting for classes.

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