Zimbabwean teachers cancelled their strike on 5 May to show their faith in the government, even though the interim US$800 monthly salary promised to them in February has yet to be paid.
"We are calling on all teachers to report for duty. We are doing this with heavy hearts, but we have faith in the minister," said Sifiso Ndlovu, chief executive of the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association (ZIMTA).
A similar call was made by the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
On 4 May, the two teacher unions met with government officials and international donors to work out a compromise. This led to the reduction of public school fees across the board, from between US$50-150 to US$10-20 per trimester, and waived fees for the children of all teachers.
However, teachers will continue to receive a monthly allowance of US$100 to supplement their salary in Zimbabwean dollars. In January, Zimbabwean teachers were paid an average of Z$29 trillion as salary, an amount which is less than US$10 and can buy you no more than ten loaves of bread. A combination of low wages and high living costs means teachers will continue to struggle to make ends meet.
The PTUZ also said its members were going back to work but urged the unity government to spruce up its image in order to gain the confidence of donors, whose support is needed to revive the education system.
"We are going back to work although we did not have all our demands met," said PTUZ general secretary Raymond Majongwe.
"The donors have made it clear that they will only come in if the government addresses such issues as the violation of the rule of law. We should push for the government to address all the outstanding issues."
Many donors are reluctant to commit new aid unless the government makes more tangible reforms to break away from the past policies of president Robert Mugabe, which have wrecked the economy and trampled on human rights.
At a recent May Day rally, prime minister Tsvangirai pledged that the current US$100 allowance would “graduate into a proper salary” as public spending picks up.
Despite the reduction in school fees, many children will remain out of school. Unemployment is estimated at 90% and even the lower fees will be too expensive for many parents.
EI is committed to supporting teachers and their unions in rebuilding the education sector and ensuring that all Zimbabwean children have the means to attend school.
Earlier in April, EI and its co-operating partners launched the “Co-ordinated Plan for Maintaining and Strengthening Teacher Trade Unions in Zimbabwe” to assist all four Zimbabwean EI member organisations, so that these unions can continue to function and provide services to their members.
Built on the Urgent Action Appeal launched on 3 February, the plan aims to help unions protect the human and trade union rights of their members, and ensure unions are fully involved in the education aspects of a national reconstruction plan.
By providing teachers with the support they need to stay in their classrooms during this difficult period, EI and its unions in Zimbabwe contribute to the longer-term goal of achieving quality education for all Zimbabwean children.
For the text of EI's Urgent Action Appeal, please click on the link below.