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  • Strikes and Protests 2007/8 - Teachers and Lecturers

  • Teachers embark on full-scale strike
    Hendricks Chizhanje, ZimOnline
    September 27, 2007

    Visit the index of articles on the teachers' strikes

    HARARE - Zimbabwe's impoverished teachers yesterday embarked on a full-scale strike following a pay deadlock with the government.

    The militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said teachers "downed their tools" after the government ignored their demands for better pay and working conditions.

    PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe yesterday said teachers, particularly those in Harare, had responded positively to the call to stop work.

    "Teachers are heeding the call for strike action. Even ZIMTA (Zimbabwe Teachers Association) members are also heeding (the call)," Majongwe told ZimOnline.

    The larger and more government-sympathetic ZIMTA has not stated its position on the strike an is understood to be pursuing negotiations with the government.

    Teachers embarked on a sit-in at several schools around the country early this month to press for a wage increase to cushion themselves from an agonising economic crisis marked by out of control inflation and foreign currency shortages.

    The teachers and other civil servants petitioned the government at the end of July, demanding 400 percent salary increments to cushion them from mounting poverty and the biting cost of living.

    They threatened at the time to abandon classrooms if the government did not increase their salaries to $15 million a month with effect from September.

    Majongwe said between 30 and 40 percent of PTUZ members in Harare did not report for work yesterday, warning of a full-scale job action as more teachers heed the call in the next few days.

    "We will not beg for salaries but we will demand for salaries," said the combative Majongwe who has regularly run into trouble from the increasingly paranoid government of President Robert Mugabe.

    The PTUZ had on Monday sent a circular to its members outlining new salary demands, which would see the lowest paid teacher earning $40 200 000 per month.

    The union said the new salary scales take into account the need to pay teachers salaries above the poverty datum line (PDL), estimated at around $16 million.

    The lowest paid teachers presently earn $2.9 million a month before allowances. After allowances the gross salary would be around $3.5 million, less than 25 percent of the PDL.

    The PTUZ is demanding a minimum basic salary of $18 million a month, transport allowances of $8 million, housing allowances of $6 million and several other benefits such as free medication, fees exemptions for their children, and recreation and clothing allowances.

    The militant union said it had resolved to abandon its sit-in protest on Monday to step up its job action as teachers could no longer afford to go to work.

    "Lets consolidate our sit-ins until the 24th of September 2007 while we facilitate coordination with other provinces (let us strive for 100 percent success rate at every school. From the 25th we go a gear up and stay at home (we can't go to work anymore) until these demands are met," read part of the circular made available to this reporter.
    The demands have since been revised upwards in line with the deterioration of economic conditions in the country.

    The government had by yesterday not formally responded to the teachers' demands.

    Education permanent secretary Stephen Mahere yesterday said he was not aware of the teachers' strike and would only comment once he is briefed by provincial education officers.

    "I haven't received full reports from provincial education directors so that they can appraise me on what is happening. But maybe in the next two days I would have a clearer picture.

    "At the moment I am in Matabelenad North and teachers are at work," said Mahere.

    But as ZimOnline observed yesterday, there were no teachers at several schools in central Harare which were deserted as students played outside.

    At Blakiston Primary School and Harare Girls High School, students said teachers had not reported for work over the past two days.

    Only a few senior teachers were seen at most Harare schools, some of whom were selling sweets and popcorn to supplement their salaries.

    "We are still in the profession just because we have nowhere to go," said one senior teacher who asked not to be named.

    In the Chihota district of Mashonaland East, most teachers had either stopped reporting for duty or had resigned due to the poor remuneration.

    "In Chihota we recently lost four teachers who resigned," said one parent who only identified herself as Doreen.

    ZimOnline is reliably informed that at least 23 teachers at Harare's Dzivaresekwa High School never reported for duty when the third term started on 4 September.

    Majongwe yesterday said police had moved around schools in Harare asking headmasters for the names of teachers absconding from duty while in Chitungwiza some district education officers reportedly did the same.

    "They have really gone out to intimidate teachers. But the teachers have defied that intimidation," Majongwe said.

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