THE Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) has threatened not to mark this yearâ€™s public examinations unless the government pays teachers in foreign currency.
The move by the countryâ€™s largest teachersâ€™ representative organisation will further worsen the already crumbling education system that was dogged by strikes throughout the year as teachers pressed for better salaries and working conditions.
Teachers initially boycotted the invigilation of the November â€˜Oâ€™ and â€˜Aâ€™ level examinations until the Reserve Bank intervened with generous incentives.
Zimta national executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu told members of the associationâ€™s Matabeleland North province in Bulawayo this week that they should not mark examination scripts unless and until
their salaries and allowances were paid in hard currency.
â€œIt will be stupid for us to take part in the marking of these examinations, if ever I can call them examinations at all,â€ Ndlovu said. â€œThe government should pay us in foreign currency since most businesses are now charging for services and goods in foreign currency and that is the only logical way forward.â€
He said Zimbabwe teachers, who were earning an average $1 million monthly, were the worst-paid professionals worldwide. He said the government had reduced them to beggars.
â€œTeachers in Zimbabwe are living in extremely poor conditions, we are living on less than one US cent a day which is unacceptable. Our salaries are ridiculously low and cannot even cover transport costs,â€ Ndlovu said. â€œHow does our employer expect us to report for duty under such circumstances?â€
Zimta is demanding that a junior teacher should earn at least R12 000 or US$2 500 monthly.
Ndlovu also took a swipe at teachers who took part in the invigilation of Grade 7 examinations and called them â€œselloutsâ€ because Zimta had declared 2008 a non-academic year due to intermittent strikes.
Education experts said pupils in public schools attended full classes for less than 30 days throughout the year.
Another teacher organisation, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), also vowed to boycott marking the November examinations.
PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said marking the examinations would legitimise them when pupils did not learn much during the year.
â€œWe wonâ€™t waste our time and energy marking these futile examinations. Students did not learn anything this year and I do not remember our members invigilating any examinations this year, so what are we going to mark?â€ asked Majongwe. â€œAs far as we are concerned, there are no examinations to talk about. The government is ignoring the simple reality that the system is down and we do not want to be used as a shield to aid it.â€
Education ministry permanent secretary Stephen Mahere could not be reached for comment on the latest development.
Meanwhile, riot police on Tuesday thwarted a protest march by medical workers in Harare to protest against the countryâ€™s collapsing health delivery system.
The police blocked a march by more than 700 hospital workers who attempted to leave Parirenyatwa Hospital to present a petition to the Minister of Health, David Parirenyatwa, at his offices at Mukwati Building in the city.
The marchers comprised doctors, nurses, nurse aids and general workers from Harare, Parirenyatwa and Chitungwiza hospitals.
Health workers, like teachers, have been on strike for the greater part of the year pressing for better remuneration and working conditions.
By Henry Mhara