ZIMTA WANTS TEACHERS’ SALARIES CORRECTED
ZIMTA is concerned with the prevailing economic situation which has fallen heavily on teachers whose situation is further exacerbated by meagre salaries . The Association argues that the prevailing situation makes it almost impossible for educators to deliver quality public education in public schools.
In light of this, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association Secretary General Mr. Goodwill Taderera argues that clear corrective measures must be taken to capacitate teachers for the delivery and implementation of the education that we want for the Agenda 2030.
Below is the excerpt of an interview with ZIMTA Secretary General Mr. Goodwill Taderera.
P R: Can you give a succinct account of the overall salary situation for teachers in Zimbabwe?
G.T The issue around salaries is very complex when we look at our Zimbabwean situation .The overall salary situation is that it falls far too short of the teacher’s expectations.”
P R : What are the major challenges teachers face regarding their salaries in view of the proposed 2024 salary scheme?
G.T. The major challenge that teachers face regarding salaries is lack of social dialogue that is meaningful, that brings in trust, that is inclusive and that yields positive results in terms of social dialogue. You will recall that in the past teachers had reached a level of getting over US 540 dollars per month on average and they were in the upper middle income class economy, but this time around they are actually below poverty datum line.
P R: Have there been any recent developments or negotiations regarding this issue of salaries?
G.T. The negotiations have been stalled and delayed because the government has not appointed its own team of negotiators and for that reason there could not be any negotiations. Another point is that in the hit and pressure of elections nothing happened in the last quarter .While the negotiating team for the workers side remains intact ,the government side did not come to the party owing to the aforesaid reasons. ”
P R: Teachers are not satisfied with the current salary structure and increments. Why?
G.T. Teachers are not satisfied with the current salary structure/s and lack of meaningful increments. You recall that when government last improved our salaries, the salary that teachers were getting prior the increments in U.S.D terms and in RTG terms of value ,fell far short .Given that inflation in Zimbabwe is a moving target this made the increased salaries in terms of RTGS far short of what they were receiving before, save for the U.S.D component which of cause we all know is a stable currency. So this is the dynamic that makes teachers unhappy.
P R: How do these salary issues affect the morale and motivation of teachers?
G.T Definitely, when you are not getting adequate remuneration and spend most of the day at work and you then go home and there is no food on the table , schools open and you do not have sufficient money for your children’s fees , children get sick or hurt and you again do not have sufficient health insurance, the utility rates ;water, electricity etc all these things increase burdens on the ability of teachers to adapt, adopt and improve their lives .They cannot even think of buying a stand to build their houses , they cannot even talk of buying a car to improve themselves in terms of mobility. Therefore this kind of scenario demotivates teachers to a larger extent to the extent that it affects their service delivery in terms of their actual teaching in the classroom. This is having a toll on the overall quality of education in several ways such as the depreciation in quality education.
P R: Are there any specific demands or suggestions from the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) with regards to proffering solutions to this burning issue of salaries?
G.T The specific suggestions from ZIMTA are well informed and guided by research; ZIMTA has a formidable research department which has actually seen that now what we require is a salary that is over U S 1500 dollars per month per teacher. But however, in our position paper, because we move along the gear that is social dialogue inclined through the Apex Council at the National Joint Negotiating Council we are demanding for U.S 840 dollars salary for the lowest paid teacher and at the moment we are below that. We are saying the only reasonable thing to do is to first attain the demands of the last position paper that we submitted to push government to demand that we move away from the current salary to somewhere closer to U.S 840 .Then we can continue to break the ceilings as , and when the employer shows the capacity to afford to pay better . As we speak the government is adamant and we are saying we are not speaking from blues , we have the evidence- based research and arguments put forward by authorities and we are willing to share with the employer so that they actually see that they are suffocating us .They are actually removing the oxygen that makes us have the impetus to deliver both service and the mandate of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. The government should just make sure they put their all, and use resources that are available to ensure that they capacitate and finance education and particularly the teachers’ salaries .
P R: The discontentment caused by meagre salaries spurred protests from among other teacher unions who threatened to not to report for duty until the issue is fully addressed .How has been teacher turnout in the first week of the 2024 academic term from members of our Association ?
G T The teachers reported for duty almost 100%. If they did not, these had their own specific challenges which was not tantamount to abscondment; Teachers who were taking their children to schools, teachers who were ill or on sick leave those could be the ones that might not have come on the opening day .The key retention challenges faced by teachers is basically salary, not to talk of non-monetary incentives which they have often spoken about as a dummy just to make us get back to work .So the teacher turnout in the first week was excellent in terms of the opening of the academic term in 2024 ”
P R: Is there any teacher shortage and how could this be addressed?
G.T The government must make sure that they they employ qualified teachers for the education sector. We have situations where teachers have more than 60-70 leaners in a classroom even in this new academic year . People are removing their children from some of the schools that are demanding exorbitant fees , and then coming to schools which are in high density areas and or in rural areas and as a result, it gives a lot of burden to the teachers in the public schools and lessen the pressure in private schools which charge high fees .So it is very important to make sure that there is equitable distribution of leaners within the same geographical location so that there is no overtaxing of other teachers at the expense of the others.”
P R. Poor remunerations is often cited as another aspect bearing heavily on teacher retention. How does teacher retention impact the stability and continuity of education in Zimbabwe.?
G.T In terms of stability and continuity of education in Zimbabwe, the only issue that is required to be done by the employer is to make sure that they pay .The equation is very simple . It is an issue of making sure that they pay equal pay or an amount that is commensurate with the workload of a teacher. In other words when teachers get sufficient resources, they have more time to be at school. We are therefore advocating for equal pay for equal work .
P R: What is your comment regarding the employers’ initiatives or policies to retain teachers in the profession?
G T As far as I can remember only a few, because what then the government initiates through social dialogue sometimes is not fulfilled save for the issue of vehicle rebates where teachers could get a reprieve in terms of paying duty . But then how many teachers have that kind of money to procure a car from outside the country to benefit from that duty exemption -very few. So the initiatives and policies that the government put in place do not come through because they do not take into consideration that the salary levels of teachers are still very low to benefit from some of the policies that they promulgate. The other imitative I have already spoken to, where the employer gives non monetary incentives in terms of housing stands among other things. Unfortunately teachers do not get these stands to the extent that, they end lodging in houses where the learners that they teach come from and this diminishes teacher status in the nation ”
P R : What measures can be taken to enhance teacher retention and improve their working conditions.?
G T The government has to look at the salary component and then fulfill its promises. The issue around non- monetary incentives must be taken seriously and issues around land. It must ensure that houses and schools are built so that teachers do not get to lodge and pay exorbitant rents which then gobbles every cent that they get as salary. This situation is like the government is giving with one hand and then extorts it with the other. Unfortunately, the government holds the bigger end of the stick and they just do what they like and demand results where they are not investing sufficient resources. The government just has to do away with RTGS salary and use United States dollars which are sustainable, retain value and enable the teacher to meet their day to day obligations . The business of a hybrid salary is not working. Besides, teachers do not get the government rates on RTGS when they are changing the money on the black market. Instead of spending most of their time at school , they now go into the streets to look for united states dollars, something which is illegal. Hence their absence from work affects the productivity , efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of quality public education.