Zimbabwe Suspends Striking Teachers

A number of teachers have been dismissed by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education after they failed to show up at the start of the school year on Monday.

Schools in the country opened this week after a prolonged closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but teachers striking over low pay have paralyzed activities. In the capital Harare, there were no teaching activities in schools which managed to open.

The government denounced the strike as “unwarranted conduct” that is depriving children of their right to education and Education Minister, Dr Evelyn Ndlovu, announced the striking teachers have been suspended for three months.

She said, “The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education would like to inform the nation and its valued stakeholders that all officials within the Ministry who absented themselves from duty since the official opening of schools on 7 February 2022 have been suspended without pay forthwith, for a period of three months.”

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In Zimbabwe, there are 140,000 government school teachers teaching 4.6 million students. Many teachers chose to stay at home in protest of their salaries of about $100 a month. They want their pay to be increased to about $500 a month.

According to the ministry, the absent teachers were suspended without pay with immediate effect for a period of three months while investigations into their misconduct were conducted.

Using the official exchange rate, teachers earn just under $200 (£150) a month, and less than $100 at the black market exchange rate widely used for goods and services.

The unions are calling for a minimum wage of $540.

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On The government offered Tuesday a 20% pay increase, payment of part of teachers’ salaries in U.S. dollars, and subsidies for buying cars and houses in response. The government also threatened to cut salaries of those who do not report for duty.

Teachers’ unions, however, reject the government’s offer, saying it’s too small. As well, union officials do not trust the government to deliver on promises of cheaper houses and duty-free imports of cars, pointing to previous announcements that did not materialize. The teachers claim that even with government subsidies, they cannot afford to buy a car.

Obert Masaraure claims that teachers have been reduced to paupers and cannot pay school fees at the schools where they usually teach. According to him, teachers need almost eight months of their salaries just to pay for school fees. 

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