Teacher unions report majority of members stayed away as schools open

February 13, 2022

Brenna Matendere

Teacher unions last Monday reported that the majority of their members stayed home due to incapacitation as schools opened for the first term.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said they recorded absenteeism of as much as 90 percent while the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said 96 percent of schools they sampled suffered subdued activity due to teacher absence.

The teachers want their salaries restored to pre October 2018 rates when the least earner got US$540. Currently they are paid in local currency and the least paid is getting ZW$30 000-, which is US$ 258 at the interbank rate but US$130 on the prevalent black market. 

Reports indicate that school heads also joined the stay away.

In a statement to Grazers News issued on 7 February 2022, ARTUZ president, Obert Masaraure, said his organisation had visited 720 of Zimbabwe’s 6,797 primary schools to assess teacher turn out.

“It is apparent that no teaching and learning is taking place in over 96 percent of our schools. Some of the teachers who reported for duty were saying they won’t be reporting for duty tomorrow since they were overwhelmed by work.

“Those teachers who will continue reporting for duty are the ones receiving incentives from parents. The union did not gather statistics of learner attendance because there were no teachers to complete learners’ attendance registers,” said Masaraure.

The Artuz leader also presented to Grazers News, two tables showing results of their findings which are as below:               

Table 1: Findings from Schools Visits.

School CategorySchools completely ClosedOnly learners PresentTeaching and learning taking place
Primary23746815
Secondary9818812

Table 2: Findings from interviews with teachers

School categoryWent to schoolDid not
Primary763722
Secondary962296

Takavafira Zhou, the PTUZ president, told Grazers News that his organisation had also observed that while a few teachers had turned up for work in urban areas due to incentives provided by parents, their counterparts in rural areas had not travelled to their stations.

“Our current statistics show that 90 percent of teachers have not turned up for work. Some teachers who turned up for work gave warped justification that that they were trying to break the long holiday but would be joining the strike tomorrow (Tuesday),” he said.

Zhou insisted the job action was legal.

“Teacher unions notified the employer that they are incapacitated. It is the employer that has been prevaricating and engaging in fire-fighting antics of pretending to be negotiating now on the opening days when it was evading engagement when schools were closed,” he said.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZITA) president, Richard Gundani, in an audio message circulated to members, urged teachers to continue with the stay away.

“No educator must attend classes and deliver lessons as the term opens,” he said, blaming poor salaries. “This is a sad situation, which can only come to an end when government responds positively by paying US dollar-denominated salaries,” he said.

He insisted that all arms of government must put their heads together to find a solution to the teachers’ crisis.

“We appreciate the role that parliament has played in advocating for a salary increment for teachers over the past few months. Unfortunately, this has not yielded results,” said Gundani.

Taungana Ndoro, the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson, was quoted by the public media admitting that teacher and learner turnouts were low on the first day, and hoped that the situation would improve as the week progressed.

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