Teachers’ salaries deserve urgent attention: Coltart

Government needs to urgently address the issue of teachers’ salaries to improve the education sector, a former cabinet minister has said.

David Coltart
David Coltart

Former education minister David Coltart, in an interview with The Zimbabwean, said plans by his successor to raise standards in education needed to be complemented by a salary review for teachers.

Lazarus Dokora, Coltart’s former deputy and now the minister, has pledged to improve infrastructure in schools, teacher training, the supply of learning materials, and working conditions for teachers and their support staff.

Coltart said the establishment of a vibrant education sector hinged on the manner in which government responded to the issue of wages and working conditions.

“Teachers’ salaries are very critical as far as this is concerned. We have to pay the teachers better salaries and I am glad that the government is aware of this. We need to have attractive salaries for teachers and that should be the principal aim of the government,” said Coltart. “However, I need to say that these policies outlined by the Ministry were agreed to in the medium-term plan and I am glad that the Ministry has continued with these policies.”

Teachers’ unions say they are talking to the government about a salary review and other concerns. Teachers earn around $400, which is $140 below the poverty threshold for Zimbabwe.

During the last decade, Zimbabwe has lost an estimated 20,000 teachers to neighbouring countries because of poor salaries and unfavourable conditions of service.

Coltart said it was imperative that the government relaxed the re-admission criteria for teachers coming back into the profession.

Unions last week told The Zimbabwean that some teachers wanting to come back to the profession were having to wait as long as two years because of the stringent conditions for their re-admission.

“There have been problems with the Public Service Commission, which applied quite stringent criteria. In 2009, I declared an amnesty to get teachers back, and that worked. We had about 15,000 teachers who came back to the profession. I am not sure whether we might need another amnesty now, but we have to revise the re-admission conditions,” said Coltart.

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