The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube/Tinomuda Chakanyuka Sunday News Reporters
THE Government will cut salaries of teachers who will fail to produce good results especially for public examination classes, among a cocktail of measures aimed at improving the quality of education in the country.
This comes into effect this month following an announcement in the budget statement presented by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa last year which also recommended that teachers at all schools which will register below 50 percent pass rate at Grade 7 and O-level will forego their April, August and December salaries.
The development comes at a time when teachers are also quaking in their boots following increased visits by officials from Civil Service Commission who are conducting impromptu checks and head counts. In Bulawayo, some teachers said inspectors were checking records of mark books, scheme books and pupil’s registers.
“Sometimes they even inspect if teachers are properly dressed. Most of these inspectors are rough,” said a teacher at a local school.
Another teacher said at his school some teachers were coming to work at around 11am since they teach hot seating classes, but inspectors were not prepared to listen to such cases.
“They argue that teachers are supposed to be at work for eight hours. The inspectors said all those who were not at school when they visited must bring their books to the regional offices or they will be struck off the payroll.”
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira defended the unannounced visits and said they were not targeted at teachers only but all civil servants.
“CSC is the employer and it is within its mandate to inspect Government workers. The inspections are an ongoing process and they are being done in all Ministries not only in schools, to make sure that work is being done,” she said.
In addition to the visits, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has also increased the teacher-pupil ratio.
According to the guideline sent to all heads the new teacher-pupil ratio for Early Childhood Development has been revised up to one teacher per 25 pupils from the previous one teacher per 20 pupils, while for junior schools it is now one teacher per 40 pupils up from one teacher per every 35 pupils.
For secondary schools, Form One to Four, the ratio has been reviewed to one teacher per every 35 pupils from the previous one teacher per 30 pupils, while for examination classes, Ordinary level it is now one teacher per 33 pupils up from one teacher per 25 pupils.
Practical subject teachers will now be superintending over 100 pupils each up from the previous one teacher per 75 pupils.
Meanwhile, thousands of relief teachers have been sent back home, hardly two weeks after being hired, after Government terminated their contracts last week following the recalling of teachers on vacation leave.
The exact number of affected relief teachers could not be immediately established as officials from both the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare were not forthcoming with details.
A circular from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education dated 18 January, which also announced the recalling of all teachers who were on leave said relief teachers who had been engaged had to leave work in 24 hours.
“Reference is made to the Permanent Secretary’s minutes dated 18 January 2016 that all teachers who had applied for vacation leave be recalled to their respective stations. Teachers on relief posts should be given 24-hour notice to leave stations if they had already been engaged,” reads the circular signed by Matabeleland North acting provincial education director Mr Jabulani Mpofu.
However, teachers’ unions said they believed what was happening in the education sector was a direct attack on teachers.
They indicated that they were planning to file papers in court challenging the issue of recalling teachers on leave while consulting their members with a view to down tools in protest over “harassment”.
Zimta chief executive officer Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said their lawyers were already working on papers which they will file in court this week.
“That decision has already been made. Our lawyers are already working on the papers which we expect to file this week. We have told the Government that this is the route we are taking if they do not reverse that decision. This decision was necessitated after consultations with our members who have all said that this is an illegal decision hence the need for us to take them to court,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said teachers felt they could only be given an ear if they strike.
“I cannot rule out the possibility of a strike, everything that is happening now is building up towards a strike. First was the budget presentation by the Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa. We were never consulted during its making but there are a lot of provisions that negatively affect our membership. After that we are told of a 450 page-report on the sector that was presented to Cabinet. We do not even know its contents, we were supposed to meet with the Government on 20 January to discuss this report and other matters but this never materialised. We are consulting our membership and we will surely have a way forward soon,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Mr Takavafira Zhou also said they were consulting their members on the way forward.
“It is like we do not exist at all. This is a clear fight. Our members are now looking at us to get a clear way forward because every teacher is frustrated, first nothing is being said about our bonuses and then all these other mind boggling policies. When you look at it, it is like someone is sitting at a certain office tasked with frustrating teachers. As it stands I will not rule out a strike, the only question right now is when?” said Mr Zhou.