It is a rainy Tuesday evening and Memory Fembe (43) is spending a good time with her family.
Fembe checks her phone and notices its almost 7 pm and she tells her form four Son to switch on the radio so that they listen to the news.
The son does as he is told, with the first bulletin announcing that Schools will reopen on 7 February 2022. Upon hearing such news, Fembe’s mood immediately changes as she feels like her heart is struck into two pieces.
The first thing that comes to her mind is how she will pay for her three children’s school fees considering that she is a mere teacher who is incapacitated and whose salary has lost value and dignity over the years.
“Sending my children to school has become a burden for me since l’m a single mother of three, l know they have the right to education but truly speaking it’s no longer easy for me.
“My first born is writing his final examinations this year and we all know that they need registration fees which is going to be a major hurdle for me, l also have two girls one is in form two and the other one is in grade six, all these children look up to me for their survival as l am the only surviving parent that they have, my job does not pay well.”
For Fembe its not only about sending her children to school but, there are other basic needs that she also needs to fulfil as the bread winner of the family such as food, shelter and clothes.
Fembe is amongst many women teachers around the country who labour day in and out but, continue to be incapacitated due to poor remuneration from the noble profession. This is a unique problem that only teachers from Zimbabwe have to struggle with.
“Government’s offer of 20% increment made in February 2022 does not change anything at all because l still can’t afford to fend for my children as the bread winner. I remain incapacitated and can’t imagine what the future holds for me. I cannot even barely remember the last time l bought new clothes for my children not even mention myself, we are tired of wearing second hand clothes,” said the mother of three as she looked down trying to hide her tears.
Adding her weight to the issue, ZIMTA Vice President, Mrs. Elizabeth Mahiyana said women teachers had been hit hard by the incapacitation situation in Zimbabwe leaving many stranded and stressed.
“Women teachers play a full time role at the work place, coupled with additional stress of raising own family without enough money which becomes so hard. They now stand in between whether to stay at home, finding piece jobs to put food on the table for their children and risk losing their jobs or reporting for duty. The situation is so stressful no wonder why some women teachers fall ill and even lose their lives.”
ZIMTA Women Representative, Easther Gunda described incapacitation as a bitter pill to swallow, she said “Imagine spending all your time at home and having children making different demands from you yet you cannot even fulfill any of them because you are incapacitated. Children see you go to work and have faith in you that our mother goes to work therefore she can provide anything that we ask for.”
In a statement issued on 8 February 2022 by the government on the conditions of service for teachers and civil servants, Government offered a 20% increase on the Zimbabwean dollar salary component for civil servants backdated to January 1 2022, USD$100 per month in hard currency effective March 1.
Responding to issues of incapacitation, spearhead by ZIMTA and other unions, the government on 8 February 2022 announced that they were offering to pay school fess for teachers’ children covering three biological children, with a cap of $20 000 per child per term. It also offered to construct 34 000 housing units (2 125 blocks of flats) and roll out a housing loan guarantee scheme, to provide transport facility for both rural and urban teachers as well as to allow teachers to import vehicles duty-free, which they can only dispose of after three years.
Teachers have described these as steps in the right direction although they fall short of addressing most of their immediate demands for example, salary that enables them to afford basic needs.