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Zimbabwe struggles continue

The current discrimination of Teachers in Zimbabwe and the subsequent illusion of the pursuit of Public Quality Education for all

PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou has provided the NASUWT with his analysis of the situation currently facing teachers in Zimbabwe.

The quest for sustainable development has become the pre-occupation of the global world with Quality Education for All being the slant of the Global 2030 Agenda. At a time when several countries are making clear cut benchmarks to achieve quality education for all, the education system in Zimbabwe is in the terminal ward. With the naked discrimination and harassment of teachers and total lack of political will to invest in education, schools in Zimbabwe at best resemble deserts and at worst concentration camps.

New supervision instruments have been designed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education without consulting teachers. The Ministry has also introduced Teacher Professional Standards without engaging teachers, yet such standards are expected to establish the knowledge levels, skills and values expected from every teacher. The supervision instruments and professional standards are executed by inspectors, who have become nothing but academic terrorist going to the extent of asking village heads and chiefs about professional standards of teachers. This baffles logic in light of the fact that teaching is a profession with knowledge packaged in theories and principles.

Above all, all teachers who had been granted vacation leave have been recalled after a few days into their approved leave. Worse still vacation leave in the education sector has been cancelled and a considerable number of teachers who have accumulated maximum vacation days cannot accumulate any more days. Officials from the line Ministry (Permanent Secretary) as well as the Civil Service Commission (Deputy Minister) have publicly enunciated that they are crafting new regulations in which a teacher would go on vacation leave after 14 years.  They even deliberately abused the public media claiming the leave days for teachers were designed by colonialists who always wanted to go abroad for holidays, yet in reality a teacher only accrues 18 days a year whereas other civil servants like soldiers, police, nurses get as much as 45 days.

Zimbabwe with 4.3 million primary and secondary school students, 8.500 primary and secondary schools (and a deficit of 2.056 schools), about 120 000 teachers (17 000 of whom are ghost teachers, youth militias) has a deficit of more than 20 000 teachers. There are schools with as many as 3.500 pupils per school and a teacher pupil ration of 1:100. Yet surprisingly the government has frozen all vacant posts, with a defective report claiming that most schools are over-staffed. This artificial overstaffing has led to systematic targeting of Ptuz members for unlawful transfers from urban areas to remote Zanu pf stronghold areas as some form of punishment for the ‘crime’ of mere trade union activism. There is no longer any replacement for teachers on maternity leave, with schools forced to distribute their load on other teachers. Sadly, there have been cases of pupils going for a term unattended. Pay dates remain obscure for the better part of the month, while pension deductions and medical aid contributions are not remitted to the respective bodies, with the subsequent failure to access pension and medical assistance in times of need. The majority of teachers survive on vending as their salary is too low.

While other professionals like soldiers, police, nurses and doctors have been paid their 2015 bonuses, teachers have not. The government had promised to pay teachers by 30 May, but with the current liquidity crisis in which many teachers failed to access their April pay because the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has not been allocating banks with some funds, the date has lapsed without payment. It remains a mystery how the government would manage to meet its commitment, any time soon. A new curriculum punctuated by patriotism has been designed and would be implemented with effect from 3 May 2016. In a manner reminiscent to Hitler’s youth, students will be forced to take an oath of allegiance to Zimbabwe, respect of the national flag and respect of those who fought in the liberation war.

While the above systematic targeting of teachers may be part of the cost-cutting austerity measures, it is clear that it is driven by lack of political will to invest in public education, cold and calculated education vandalism, and a deliberate attempt to totally erode the status of teachers for political expediency. Not only are the measures desperate, careless and acidic, but they are also toxic, brutal and suicidal emanating from inefficient, ineffective, hopeless and bankrupt policy makers.    The measures are also a total violation of the national constitution (sections 51-56), as they are selectively applied on teachers and devoid of equality and human dignity. To expect professionalism and quality education from a hungry, under resourced and overworked, weary, disillusioned, troubled and degraded teacher, is to envisage the impossible. There is also a false assumption that intelligence and wisdom reside with government policy makers and inspectors. Sadly, the government has always appointed hyenas to take care of goats and when goats are consumed, surprisingly wonder why.

An ill clothed and starving teacher who continues to do so much with so little is a model of revolutionary courage, heroism, resilience, vigilance, and commitment. Yet there comes a time when that commitment must be rewarded, which time teachers feel is long overdue in Zimbabwe. It is within this framework that the teachers have called for the urgent establishment of a Professional Council of Teachers. Ptuz has embarked on a media campaign for status restoration. We have formally requested for meetings with Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education officials, Vice Presidents, and the President of Zimbabwe. The Vice Presidents and President have simply ignored our appeals. Every time we sign petitions to them, we have seen increased surveillance at our offices targeting both Ptuz leadership and membership. There have been even threats to close some of our provincial offices and imaginary accusations of working in cohorts with opposition parties for regime change. While the Minister of Education is at times forthcoming, his simple answer to myriads of issues is that his hands are tied – a clear indication that he may not be the centre of several obnoxious measures in the Education system.

Ptuz has also lobbied parliamentarians for the improvement of salaries and conditions of service which has yielded very little. Teachers have also embarked on go-slow in an attempt to ensure that government leaves education to educationist and gives teaching back to teachers. Ptuz launched an urgent chamber court application against cancellation of vacation leave which the courts ruled was not urgent and had to be filed otherwise. As such, the union has a case pending before the courts against the government on this unfair labour practice and monumental injustice. The union has also several cases in the labour courts in defence of members arbitrarily transferred from their stations. The union has also launched low costs training of members on labour, human rights and gender issues, among many others. Due to a high number of cases involving Ptuz members the union has employed two full time lawyers to deal with numerous cases before the labour courts while at the same time we entered an agreement with a well established law firm to handle cases before the High and Supreme courts. Union call for the government to give teachers land for farming and building houses has also been snubbed by government, as if teachers are second class citizens of Zimbabwe. Consequently, it has become fashionable to find 12 teachers sharing a two bed roomed living quarters, which has an outside pit toilet – a situation which has seriously compromised quality education. After consulting parents, its membership and pupils in all the ten provinces and other critical stakeholders in the whole country, Ptuz has rejected the so called ‘national pledge’ in its entirety. Notwithstanding the envisaged intentions to promote patriotism among the citizenry, it is a dogmatic infringement of human and children’s rights and, therefore, falls short of broad national and educational relevance, regional and international best practices. It remains to be seen how the government will inaugurate its undertaking in schools daily given the position taken by teachers, pupils, parents and other stakeholders to resist it by any means necessary.

By and large, the struggle to give teaching a more humane face in Zimbabwe and enhance quality education continues unabated. Ptuz will continue to remind the government that it remains the biggest threat to the development of the education system in the country. We will continue to build and secure Ptuz as a democratic and free trade union, let alone call for corporate governance, viz, transparency, accountability and equity.

NASUWT attends 2015 PTUZ Conference

NASUWT continued its longstanding support of trade unions in Zimbabwe by attending the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) National Policy Conference in Harare.

The Union’s Junior Vice President Fred Brown and Website Coordinator Tariq Arafa joined 200 delegates from the host nation and from across Africa to share experiences about education and trade unionism in their respective countries under the theme “Education Under Siege”. Mr Brown delivered a keynote address in which he said it was “a huge honour” to be invited to an event that was so critical to the development of education on the continent.

Teachers in Zimbabwe share many of the concerns of their British counterparts such as salaries, pupil indiscipline and teacher recruitment. But the threats facing them as trade unionists are considerably more menacing. The PTUZ General Secretary and President have been arrested and tortured 36 times and ordered to denounce the organisations they represent. Yet in the face of such brutality, they have refused to relent.

‘Collective begging not bargaining’

In an interview with NASUWT, President Takavafira Zhou said: “Teaching is not a profession in Zimbabwe. The regulations that we are using are crafted by the employer without input from teachers. The government does not respect teachers. It sees teachers as the enemy not as opinion-makers and pace-setters. It doesn’t respect collective bargaining, engagement and consultation of teachers. Throughout the world the ILO is very clear about collective bargaining but in Zimbabwe there is collective begging. The Government has let loose its public service officials to run a reign of terror in schools where their actions are not backed by legislation but merely products of wishful thinking to the extent where teachers cannot access their pay during the week, only weekends. Pay is not a privilege, it’s a right. Our own government is reducing the education budget from about 14% to about 9% so there is no political will in relation to the development of the education system. The government does not respect trade unions imposing policies without consultation. Above all there is a serious anomaly where the government does not respect its own constitution. It discriminates particularly against trainee teachers. Trainee nurses and soldiers still receive their full pay but teachers’ pay has been cut by half.”

President Zhou also lamented the lack of consultation over curriculum reform with political game-playing winning over the needs of teachers and pupils. “It is tailor-made to ensure that the government of the day wins votes. For example, they want to introduce youth militia training whereby all 318,000 learners must go for propaganda training in the army barracks, in the prison service depots and hospitals. We don’t know what the students will be doing in the army barracks instead of furthering their education but it is clear the whole aim is looking at the 2018 elections where Zanu PF peddle their propaganda.”

He referred to the “yellow trade unions” that existed in Zimbabwe – unions that are an appendage to the government, saying: “The government is propping up these unions giving them state-of-the-art cars, giving them access to schools. With legitimate trade unions like us, they constantly send surveillance to our offices. Teachers don’t have the freedom to teach in schools. If you teach about Hitler’s Germany, you are misconstrued to be teaching about today’s government so you get arrested, beaten and persecuted. The environment is not conducive to teaching and learning.”

Amid these obstacles to a thriving union movement in Zimbabwe, President Zhou thanked NASUWT for its unstinting support of his Union: “Our relationship with the NASUWT has been superb. We have been assisted in terms of understanding the broader concept of trade unionism. This involves the concept of lobbying the government and other pertinent issues such as women. NASUWT has ensured that every time we are brutalised in Zimbabwe they send messages of solidarity. They have appealed to EI who has written letters to the President of the country demanding that our sovereignty must be guaranteed. They have globalised our struggles so that we are in a better state to engage the government and our own members.”

LGBT issues under the spotlight

The treatment of LGBT teachers in Zimbabwe remains a highly divisive in a country where homosexuality is not just illegal but a taboo of society. The conference focused not just on LGBT teachers but also learners in a motion that stated:

“LGBT learners have a sense of alienation and confusion as well as overwhelming negative messages about homosexuality in their home and school environments. They face various degrees of denial and acceptance, extreme social, legal and institutional discrimination within society.

Due to homophobia in society, adolescents who are struggling with issues of sexual orientation face incredible challenges and lack many of the fundamental support systems available to their heterosexual peers. The classroom is largely viewed as the most homophobic of all social institutions.”

After a highly charged debate, PTUZ members voted that more research be conducted on LGBT issues before a decision could be taken on the level of support offered to them.

World Teachers' Day

NASUWT has produced classroom resource about Zimbabwe to mark World Teachers' Day on 5 October.

Vigil for democracy outside the Zimbabwe Embassy

 

The NASUWT has a “moral and ethical duty” to continue to fight for justice and human rights in Zimbabwe, the Union’s Deputy General Secretary has insisted.

At a democracy vigil outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, Dr Patrick Roach said the campaign for human rights in the country was “as alive today as it has ever been.”

He was speaking as NASUWT members joined trade unionists, activists and members of the Zimbabwean community in the UK to protest against the brutal violence of President Robert Mugabe’s regime in the African country.

Around 50 protesters waving placards and singing protest songs voiced their strong opposition to the continuing violence and called for free elections.

The protest was held on the third anniversary of Zimbabwe’s “run off” election when Mugabe’s Zanu PF party ran a campaign of violence, including mass rape, in a desperate bid to retain power.

Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) presented more than 1,300 petition cards to the embassy and Dr Roach and others laid them outside the embassy with red roses, often used as a symbol of peaceful protest in Zimbabwe.

Dr Roach said: “The campaign for human rights, democracy and social justice is as alive today in Zimbabwe as it has ever been.

“The fact of the matter is as a result of the Mugabe regime thousands of ordinary people including trade unionists are being oppressed in Zimbabwe and any voice of opposition is being repressed.

“We have a moral duty and an ethical duty as a teaching trade union here in the UK to stand up for justice for Zimbabwean teachers and for Zimbabwean civil society.”

Nqobizitha Moyo, who came to the protest from the Midlands, taught agriculture in Zimbabwe before fleeing to the UK.

He explained some of the difficulties teachers face in the country: “I had to leave Zimbabwe because of the violence against teachers.

“The problems faced by the teaching profession in Zimbabwe include very low salaries, and violence…you couldn’t demonstrate freely because of the violence.

“When teaching you had to teach without any tools for the children, there were no spares because of the financial situation.

In sweltering heat the protesters sung songs calling for the removal of Robert Mugabe as well as chants demanding an end to violence by Zanu PF supporters, widely regarded as thugs controlled by the Mugabe apparatus.

After the symbolic laying of roses the protesters poignantly sang God Bless Africa before a final uplifting chant. Many of the Zimbabwean activists had come from cities as far afield as Exeter, Leicester and Nottingham, as well as across London.

 

Zimbabwe Teachers Face Fresh Political Violence

Reports from Harare at the start of November confirm that Zimbabwe's teachers are facing serious political threats and violent attacks.

The Progress Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Raymond Majongwe, told a press conference in Harare on Tuesday that his organisation had received reports of teachers being victimized since the day President Robert Mugabe announced that elections could take place next year.

Six teachers from Gwangwava Primary School in Rushinga were recently forcibly transferred to other schools in Bindura after war veterans and Zanu PF supporters said they did not want the teachers in their community.

According to Majongwe, PTUZ feared for the teachers' lives because the district education office in Bindura, working in cahoots with the war veterans, transferred the six to Zanu PF strongholds so that they could 'fix' them.

"We want to put on record as an organisation that the situation in and around schools is starting to disturb us," Majongwe said.

He said teachers were being victimised at a time when the GNU (Government of National Unity) was showing obvious signs of cracks. He said Zanu PF
supporters led by war veterans had threatened to cleanse the Mashonaland province of any members of the PTUZ."

"We don't need this. It is unnecessary and uncalled for," Majongwe said. "What we have is a serious challenge around the failure by government to
address teachers' salaries."

"This election that is coming will not solve any problems facing teachers, in fact the election will increase grave yards and orphans."

Majongwe said his organisation had written to Education minister, David Coltart to intervene. They were also planning to approach Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai so he can talk to President Robert Mugabe to convince his supporters to end the teachers' victimisation.

Dr Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“The NASUWT is deeply concerned by the continuing attacks on teachers in Zimbabwe. We stand in solidarity with the PTUZ in calling for these politically motivated attacks on teachers to stop now and the NASUWT has written to the Zimbabwe High Commission setting out our concerns and calling for immediate action to protect the safety of PTUZ members.”

Zimbabwe teachers, especially in rural areas, have over the years been the target of political violence by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters who accuse them of supporting the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The situation saw hordes of Zimbabwe's teachers running away to neighbouring countries like South Africa, Botswana and to countries overseas.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has claimed that liberation war veterans in the country are forcing its members to join ZANU(PF) and to attend party meetings during working hours.

Takavafira Zhou of the militant union said he was shocked to learn that hundreds of teachers in Masvingo and Midlands provinces were being forced to pay USD25 or buy goats as punishment for late confirmation of their membership to the former ruling party. "We have learnt with shock that our members are being victimised by Zanu(PF) thugs for not joining the party. We have overwhelming evidence to prove the allegations", said Zhou.

Those found without party membership cards are severely punished and some forced to buy goats which are usually taken by the party heavyweights.

Schools in Bikita and Zaka districts in Masvingo are the most affected as war veterans leader and Zanu(PF) foot soldier Jabulani Sibanda together with Chief Nhema are forcing teachers to abandon lectures and attend political rallies. 

"It's a shame that in some areas such as Zaka and Bikita, teachers are forced to leave schools to attend political rallies. Already their salaries are not enough and they are fined if they are found without party cards, Zhou told Radio VOP. RadioVOP was informed that teachers at Cheziya High School and Gombo Primary in Gokwe and Mabika areas in Mberengwa and some in Masvingo were affected.

Zhou promised to take the matter to the responsible ministers in government.

Meanwhile MDC supporters in Masvingo continue to live in fear as the campaign of intimidation by war veterans leader Sibanda rages on.Sibanda, a former Zipra cadre believed to be in Emmerson Munangagwa,s camp has been accused of spearheading a campaign of terror aimed at instilling fear among villagers there. He is reportedly working with chiefs in the province. Police have turned a blind eye to his activities as Sibanda is believed to have the backing of party heavyweights and the Big Man himself.

ZANU(PF) Masvingo provincial chairman Lovemore Matuke denied that teachers in the province were forced to join the party.He said they were joining 'willingly'. However when contacted for comment Provincial Education Director (PED) Ms Clara Dube said she needed more time to investigate the issue.

Head commits suicide

The head of Mukomberanwa Secondary School near Chaka Business Centre allegedly committed suicide after an intense conflict with parents over suspected abuse of money meant for teacher incentives.

The Programmes and Communications Officer of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Oswald Makomborero Madziva said: "While the union does not condone abuse of public funds, the eclipse of misery and deprivation in the teachers is driving them into the devil's workshop."

"This is just but one of the cases of the vertical and horizontal conflicts which teachers are experiencing in the schools. Schools have become a war zone between parents and teachers with corrupt school development committees and school heads lining their pockets.

"The PTUZ firmly believes in one war to end all wars - a decisive and issue laden strike action."

The death of the headmaster identified only as a Mr Mashamba was closely linked to a meeting which was convened by the School Development Committee and attended by parents, the local councillor and some police details. At the meeting parents were reported to have demanded a financial report on how the school used the money which parents paid for incentives for teachers.

It is alleged that teachers at the school were never paid incentives despite the $US10 termly contribution per child which parents paid towards school levies. Allegations were that Mashamba failed to give a satisfactory explanation and the bitter parents threatened to report the matter to the police.

A day after the meeting, Mashamba travelled to his rural home in Gutu where he allegedly took poison and died.

The PTUZ said it was saddened by this development which epitomises the union's year old argument that incentives will work against teachers.

Teachers in Zimbabwe, like most civil servants, are earning about US$160. They want this increased to US$600 a month.

Resources

NASUWT has provided considerable resource support for the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).

More than 5,000 teachers have been beaten, about 600 hospitalised and 231 teachers' houses burnt, the union says.

Raymond Majongwe, PTUZ secretary general, says the number of teachers being attacked is growing by the day and as a result the quality of education is suffering.

"The same teachers that are being pushed around and being beaten are no longer going to be giving their best," he said.

"They will be looking over their shoulder every other time to see who is present, who is coming and who is advancing," he said, describing their fear.

Zimbabwe's education system, once the envy of the region, has recorded its "worst year", he said.

"I think if education could be described as being in hospital, it would be in an intensive care unit," he said.

For the Zimbabwe Election Commission, the massive displacement of teachers could prove a headache ahead of the planned presidential run-off on 27 June.

Polling officers from different sectors will need to be recruited and trained.