Teachers will not return to school when it reopens in May should they not receive their salaries, according to the teacher unions there.
Both Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said that teachers had returned to work in February after the formation of an inclusive government whose Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said they would be paid in hard currency.
However, since February, teachers have been receiving a US$100 monthly allowance while their salaries are paid in local currency that was rendered useless by the dollarisation of the economy in January.
"A lot has been said about the plight of teachers and the revival of the education sector but little is being done to address our concerns," said ZIMTA spokesperson Sifiso Ndlovu. "We have been forced to revisit our commitment to revive the quality of education offered in this country."
ZIMTA's opinion is echoed by the PTUZ.
"We cannot continue to live on fate and hope that the government is going to resolve our issue," said PTUZ spokesperson Oswald Madziva. PTUZ members will go on strike in May if government fails to pay them a salary this month.
According to the government's Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme, the country's worsening economic environment had negative impact on the education sector that resulted in most schools failing to open up for the better part of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
The government said it needed US$800 million to address immediate challenges in the education sector and ensure that teachers go back to work, as well as addressing longer term restoration of education infrastructure.
The president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Lovemore Matombo said “the government has reduced its workers to slaves”:
"The government is using the public service but is not paying them salaries but an allowance that is way below the poverty line."
With its members not receiving their salaries, both ZIMTA and PTUZ are desperately struggling to survive.
EI issued a “Coordinated Plan for maintaining and strengthening teacher trade unions in Zimbabwe”, following the launch of the Urgent Action Appeal on 3 February 2009. This plan aims to provide coordinate action of EI and its cooperating partners in order to ensure the survival of EI member organisations and the provision of education in Zimbabwe.
"How can you expect an education system to function properly when you pay teachers only enough to buy 10 loaves of bread," asks EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. "This is adding insult to injury: insult because the government thinks that teachers are worth only that much; and injury because teachers can hardly survive on that kind of wage."
Please click on the link below to read EI's appeal.