The Zimbabwe Teachers Strike 2022: An Update
The schools in the southern African nation have been closed for almost six months due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country in March 2020. Since then, schools have been closed and open irregularly due to the virus.
Children were supposed to get back to classes. However, the plan was disrupted by the emergence of the omicron variant, which closed schools until February 2022. The pressure from parents tired of keeping their school kids at home without resources for online schooling increased.
Yet, the classrooms in Harare remain deserted because Zimbabwe’s national teachers’ strike has continued the education system crisis even further. The government officials criticized the strike by calling it “unwarranted conduct” that is robbing children of their right to education.
Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Evelyn Ndlovu, stated that the government has made a decision to put all striking teachers on hold without pay for three months.
Many teachers have made a decision to stay at home and protest the teacher’s salary which is about $100 a month. They insist that their compensation should be increased to about $500 per month.
The government responded to the strikes by offering a 20 percent salary as part of the salaries in U.S. dollars and as subsidies on purchases such as cars and houses. However, both the unions and teachers have rejected that offer, viewing it as insufficient.
The officials of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe have expressed doubts about the government’s announced promises by citing the failure of previous pledges. They explained that teachers are not able to afford to purchase cars, even with the added subsidies.
“Teachers have been reduced to paupers, they are living in poverty. Teachers can’t even afford to pay school fees in the schools where they ordinarily teach."
Obert Masaraure, president of the vocal Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, told The Associated Press.
The parents of the school children are furious but simultaneously they are sympathetic toward the teachers’ demands. “We are just coming out of lockdowns and now the schools are open but no learning is taking place. What kind of future are we building for our children?” said one of the parents.
“The government should respect teachers, these teachers have families, they also have to pay school fees for their own children.”
Edmore Chise explained when dropping off his daughter at a school in Harare.
Teacher Unions have estimated the number of suspended teachers at 135,000 out of the roughly 140,000 teachers employed in public schools. Raymond Majongwe, president of the Progressive Teachers Union (PTUZ), warned:
“We are not going to back down on our demands.”
Parents who are able to spare money for private lessons are paying for their children to go to back-yard schools established illegally by hundreds of teachers who have already left the public sector. Teachers say that these private colleges have been subject to recurrent raids by the police and some officials have asked for bribes to permit them to continue running.
Zimbabwe has faced economic decline for more than a decade. These include strikes by many professionals such as teachers, doctors, and nurses; many request higher salaries because of the struggle to make ends meet.
The pay debate between teachers and government goes back to 2019 when the government decided to make a switch from paying salaries in US dollars to Zimbabwean dollars – a currency that has been losing its value by inflation.
The fight for Zimbabwe children’s education continues amidst the global pandemic.
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Resources: (click the arrow to expand)
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/feb/21/zimbabwes-striking-teachers-told-to-return-to-work-or-lose-their-jobs https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-02-10/zimbabwes-teachers-strike-amid-pandemic-and-high-inflation https://www.africanews.com/2022/02/10/zimbabwean-teachers-unions-reject-government-offer-and-go-on-strike// https://www.voanews.com/a/6437312.html https://guardian.ng/news/schools-out-in-zimbabwe-after-135000-teachers-suspended/
Kristiana Nitisa is an investigative journalist based in Sweden. She is also a research journalist at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability.
Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth.