Zimbabwe: Educational sector to suffer another blow

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The Zimbabwe government, fresh from a three week strike by doctors,
is now bracing for yet another strike from teachers. The strike is likely to throw into disarray efforts by the inclusive government to resuscitate the ailing education sector, which is still smarting from last year’s crippling job boycotts.

Today the country’s largest teachers’ union, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) is to hold crucial talks with government as they have vowed not to return to work. Schools re-open Tuesday and its a crucial one for students as they would be writing their final examinations.

Zimta president Tendai Chikowore said teachers did not want to continue to “live in abject poverty and perpetual debt” caused by the ballooning unpaid domestic utility bills and unaffordable costs of educating their children. She said teachers had been told not to report for work until government agrees to pay them US$300 a month and allowances of US$100.

Chikowore said: “Having observed that since March 2009, lots of promises to address the educators’ grievances by the employer have proven to be a non-event and having exhaustively consulted, lobbied and negotiated with principals involved on the remuneration issue, educators have as a last resort resolved to proceed to withdraw labour with effect from September 2 until demands are met.”

Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, David Coltart said he will meet the teachers early this week “to avert the strike”. Government started paying civil servants proper salaries in July after giving them US$100 allowances across the board since February.

Teachers now earn an average of US$155 after deductions. However, the unions rejected the quantum saying the government imposed the salaries on them. According to proposals made Zimta, is also demanding a US$100 monthly increment that will see teachers earning US$500 in December.

The unity government has struggled to attract funding to revive the
education and health sectors, which took a severe battering from years
of economic decline. It is not certain if the Zimbabwe government will give in to the new demands due to lack of funds. It is also not certain whether the teachers could be persuaded to resume work without increasing their salaries.

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