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  • Strikes and Protests 2007/8 - Teachers and Lecturers

  • Teachers' strike shuts down schools
    Walter Marwizi and Nqobani Ndlovu, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
    September 30, 2007

    Visit the index of articles on the teachers' strikes

    THOUSANDS of disgruntled teachers will tomorrow shun classrooms, signalling the beginning of one of the most potentially crippling strikes in the education sector since independence.

    The industrial action, over poor pay and what the teachers describe as appalling working conditions could lead to the shutdown of all government, mission and council schools in the country.

    The Zimbabwe Teachers' Association (ZIMTA) last week issued a circular to its members, telling them to stop teaching until the government raises their basic pay to $16 million a month.

    They earn around $3 million; the Poverty Datum Line is $16.7 million.

    Zimta president Tendai Chikowore confirmed yesterday the teachers would be on strike from tomorrow.
    "All the teachers are aware that Monday the strike is starting," she said.

    Chikowore would not disclose their specific pay demands.

    "Salaries are confidential, between our members and the employers. We can't discuss that with the press," she said.

    Zimta has a membership of 58 000 teachers, making it the largest union in Zimbabwe.

    Previous strikes called by the organisation have forced the government to review their members' salaries.

    Headmasters said yesterday ZIMTA's announcement would effectively stop any teaching activities in classrooms, after another teachers' union, the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe announced that it was beginning a full-scale strike from 24 September.

    The union said their members would not settle for anything less than the PDL.

    It is not just students in primary and secondary schools who will be hit hard by the strike.

    University lecturers and non-academic staff have also indicated they plan to down tools this week to press the government for over 300% and 1 000% salary adjustments respectively.

    Lecturers want the government to raise junior lecturers' pay from $6 million a month to above $25 million, excluding allowances. Non-academic staff, among them cleaners, want their salaries raised to $13 million from $934 000 before allowances.

    If their demand is granted, a junior lecturer and a cleaner will earn over $35 million and $15 million respectively, inclusive of transport and housing allowances.

    Bernard Njekeya, a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe State Universities' Union of Academics (ZISUA) and Readyforward Dube, the spokesperson for non-academic staff yesterday told The Standard they would first embark on a go-slow until the end of a two -week deadline before embarking on an indefinite industrial action to force the government to address their grievances.

    "If the government does not award us what we want by next week, then we will be left with no option but to down tools," Njekeya said. "We are losing a number of lecturers every month and at the moment there is a vacancy level of over 65% (of lecturers) at the universities."

    Dube said: "Life has become very tough for non-academic staffers who are earning less than $2 million while prices of goods and transport keep shooting up."

    No comment could be obtained from Stan Mudenge, the Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, who was said to be locked in meetings with representatives of lecturers over salary issues.

    The country's ailing education sector is grappling with a shortage of teachers and lecturers who have fled the economic crisis that has driven other professionals to foreign lands.

    The government faces more work boycotts and street protests from inflation-weary Zimbabweans.

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