If teachers too cowardly to confront their employer they shouldn’t take it out on our children!

I have been one of the most vocal activists for the respect and honor of teachers' rights and dignity, as with every other Zimbabwean - in their quest for fair and reasonable wages, as well as just, equitable and satisfactory conditions of work - something that they are entitled to in accordance with the country's constitution.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

 

I have always stood firm on my conviction that they needed to confront their employer, without fear or quivering – as they demanded what was rightfully theirs, be it constitutionally or contractually – considering that their long-standing agreement with the government of Zimbabwe was for them to be paid at least US$540 per month.

Indeed, when the same administration, for a reason stranger than fiction, reintroduced the local currency in 2019 – after a ten-year hiatus, due to the Zimbabwe Dollar having been rejected in 2009, as a result of the hyperinflationary nightmare of the early 2000s, which reached a record-breaking 500 billion percent – an average teacher was contractually entitled to a US Dollar salary.

Yet, this ill-fated decision – made against all wise advice, on account of the economic environment not being conducive for the sustainability of a local currency – led to its widely expected free-fall, with teachers’ (as well as every other Zimbabwean’s) remunerations losing value at frightening speed.

Be that as it may, every just and right-thinking Zimbabwean has a legitimate cause for their salaries to revert to the pre-October 2019 levels.

In spite of the country’s ruling elitist clique continuing to receive their earnings in the greenback, and even enjoying incredulous allowances – with the president reportedly pocketing a ridiculous basic salary of US$12,163 (said to be one of the highest on the African continent), topped up by daily stipends ranging to US$7,320 – teachers, as with other Zimbabwean, helplessly watched as their wages sank to as low as a measly US$40 a month.

As a matter of fact, the latest statistics reveal that 6.4 million Zimbabweans (over half the population) live in extreme poverty – earning less than US$1.90 a day – which, at some point in the not too distant past, tragically included teachers.

Today, as I was calculating and putting aside the little cash I had – trying to figure out how much my son would need solely for transport to and fro his school – my heart sank to its lowest at the painful realization that I was one of those not too far away from that “category of shame” of extreme poverty.

As I counted the cash required for only one round trip to school – at ZW$1,000 per day – I could not help struggling to hold back my tears from flowing down my cheeks.

This was certainly not simply because of the hurt, but intensified by the knowledge that he was not even learning anything of significance at school – due to teachers’ apathetic and indifferent approach to their duties.

After he returned home from school this afternoon, I asked him what they had learned that day – to which he delivered those heartbreaking words, that (like a sharp two-edged sword) always stabbed the depths of my soul with unrestrained cruelty – NOTHING!

Yes, they were taught NOTHING, ZERO, ZILCH!

I looked back to the wade of useless Zimbabwean Dollars stacked on my table – which was not even enough for a week’s bus fare – in utter disappointment, and hit hard by a gnawing sense of betrayal by our teachers, whom I have always held dear to my heart, and unequivocally supportive of their cause.

Here I was, struggling to cobble together enough  money for my son’s education (which includes unaffordable extra lessons, charged in US Dollars, and clearly the only place where teachers appear serious with their duties), as an investment for his future – amidst, a sea of poverty and suffering – I felt rage swiftly filling my innards, as to why these teachers had chosen the path of destroying our children’s hopes and aspirations, in their fight with their employer.

Let me be clear, in this regard.

I have never opposed collective job action, as a constitutionally-enshrined mechanism for expressing grievances and pressuring those in authority to heed the demands of the unjustly-treated.

In fact, I have been at the forefront of urging teachers, and every Zimbabwean, to bravely stand their ground and rise up, in opposition to the ruling establishment’s utter disdain for the citizenry and our welfare.

That is a given, and never in dispute.

Nonetheless, what teachers are currently engaged in, is in no way a form of industrial action.

Not by any stretch of the imagination!

How is not teaching our children, nearly all of whom are from equally impoverished families, supposed to pile pressure on the government of Zimbabwe – when these teachers are not actually protesting, or engaged in any meaningful visible collective action?

How does coming to school, but not actually doing any teaching, expected to give their employer any sleepless nights – forcing the authorities to run around in coming up with a solution, in order to stop the job action?

Are those in power in Zimbabwe even aware that teachers are not attending to their duties, in protest against their unbearable livelihoods – or, are our children the only ones who know this, as they spend the entire day playing, goofing around, and basically being loafers?

Quite frankly, I have no sympathy or empathy for cowardly individuals, who are too afraid to face off with the government, against which they are aggrieved – but instead, elect to punish our children, and virtually destroying the lives and futures of those they are meant to build up.

I will fully support teachers if they stage crippling demonstrations, picket for hours on end, and even strikes – but these have to be tangible and meaningful action, that should make those in power feel its seismic effects.

However, merely turning their backs on our children – as if they were the authors of the miserable situation these teachers find themselves in – is totally unacceptable, and will not be supported by someone like me.

I challenge teachers to go out there, and confront their employer, the government of Zimbabwe, and not vent their frustrations on defenceless children…more so, when we, the parents, have to scrounge around for every single dime for their education.

That, to me, is purely bullying!

My parting shot is – if you do not have the balls to stand up for yourselves, then either go back to work with your tails between your legs, or chose another profession!

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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