SERIOUS disturbances could affect the education sector again this year during the public examination period, the Zimbabwe Independent has gathered.
A combination of glaring anomalies that resulted from the job evaluation exercise carried out by government in July and the eroding of salary increments awarded to teachers by the hyperinflation affecting the economy have set the stage for another clash between teacher representative bodies and the government.
Both the Progressive Teachers Union (PTUZ) and the Zimbabwe Teachers Union (Zimta) this week said they were engaging government on the unresolved teachers’ grievances but warned that industrial action would be the next option.
Last year a nationwide strike organised by the PTUZ crippled the education sector and hampered the writing of final O and A Level examinations.
“Teachers are not happy at all because whatever increment they received has already been eroded by inflation,” said Raymond Majongwe, the secretary-general of PTUZ.
“We expected that the supplementary budget would offer something for teachers, but that was not to be. We had consultations in Gweru and Bulawayo last week and the consensus from our members is that we must use the only language understood by the government – action.”
Majongwe added that a final decision would be reached on October 6 when the World Teachers’ Day is commemorated. Countrywide strikes to coincide with the commencement of public examinations are likely to ensue.
Dennis Sinyolo, the secretary-general of Zimta, said his association also had an axe to grind with government pertaining to the plight of teachers.
“There are a number of areas concerning the job evaluation exercise that we are not happy with and have remained unresolved by the Public Service Commission,” said Sinyolo.
“The teachers’ salaries have already been eroded, and members of the profession are struggling in vain to make ends meet. Indeed, action comes as the last resort. We will resort to it after the negotiating channel has failed to bear fruit.”
The major issue that Zimta raised with the PSC is that bunching of teachers that resulted from the evaluation exercise, which doesn’t recognise experience and levels of education. Sinyolo described this issue as “thorny” and made it categorically clear that they won’t accept things to remain like that.
An investigation revealed that teachers affiliated to both PTUZ and Zimta have already started mobilising at school and district levels for a strike at the commencement of public examinations next month.
“We will resort to strikes next month if government doesn’t offer something between now and the end of this month,” said a teacher based in Harare.
“We are dealing with two issues, that of bunching as well as a cost of living adjustment.”
The strike organised by PTUZ last year forced Education minister Aenias Chigwedere to give in to the demands of teachers who had been struggling with low remuneration and poor working conditions.
Government responded by awarding increments in January this year, which nevertheless failed to satisfy the expectations of teachers. A job evaluation exercise followed in July.