Enhancing the status of teachers PDF Print E-mail
Prosper Ndlovu 
 
Adopted from the Chronicle
 
THE relationship between the Government and its workers, the civil servants, has always been punctuated by tension over the issue of remuneration.

Created: 25 April 2012

It has become the norm that every year the two collide on the subject of salaries. Strikes, go-slows and stay-aways as a result of disgruntlement, frustration and low morale become a common feature in a bid to force a salary review.

In the middle of this, provision of essential service has been left to suffer as much effort is wasted on bickering.
School pupils and the general citizens are as a result denied the essential service, which they are rightfully entitled to.

While the Government at some point appears to have run out of ideas on how to deal with the issue, civil servants on one hand seem to be resilient in making noise in demanding their professional status and recognition.

No doubt Zimbabwe has invested a lot in skills training with the civil service constituting a larger percentage of the workforce in the country.

However, over the years a large proportion of the skilled personnel have ditched public service and joined the private sector or crossed the border in search of greener pastures.

This has largely been attributed to the widening rift between their employers, the Government, over the issue of salaries.

A reflection on the just-ended Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) 31st annual conference not only provides a template on the plight of the entire civil service but a wake-up call to policy makers to take urgent steps in identifying long term solutions to the issue.

Of note during the Zimta conference proceedings was a paradigm shift as the educators sang a different chorus. They changed from the usual rhetoric of crying out loud for salary and allowance increases to demanding empowerment, an unusual subject in their line of work.

“Enhancing the Status of Teachers Through Economic Empowerment,” was the theme of their conference.

A lot of interest was generated as different stakeholders among them academics, senior Government officials and sister union representatives, tried to unpack the empowerment matrix.

While it is inevitable that the idea will generate a lot of debate, the educators deserve to be given credit for taking the initiative to proffer an alternative.

“We cannot be left to work this much and get nothing when our counterparts in the private sector get a lot. There is a lot of wealth in Zimbabwe and as civil servants we want to have a stake,” said Mrs Cecilia Alexander, president of the Public Service Association (PSA), the mother body of all civil service unions.

She added, “Teachers in this country need to be empowered in order to restore their dignity. There is a lot of talk about empowerment but it seems civil servants have been left out. There is no scheme for civil servants”.

The call for economic empowerment of the civil servants is not peculiar to Zimbabwe as sister unions in the region have also endorsed it.

Zambia National Union of Teachers representative Mr Lazarus Chongo has this to say: The idea of empowering teachers is a befitting theme for our region. We should unite in lobbying for the economic empowerment of teachers in order to restore the attraction of the profession.

“In our country we have concluded engagements with the government and some arrangements have been made for teachers to get allowances for empowerment,” said Mr Chongo.

Academic and an administrator, Professor Takawira Gwarimba, also reiterated that economic empowerment of teachers was the only way.

He said it was high time that educators developed entrepreneurship skills and started their own businesses in order to improve their economic status.

According to Prof Gwarimba, venturing into business was key to upgrading the teacher status than relying on a monthly package from the Government.

“Zimta should create synergies with other organisations so that teachers can make some savings. There should be a revolving fund for teachers to borrow money and finance their businesses.

“Teachers can get the land and venture into some farming projects for instance market gardening and cattle ranching. We should empower ourselves so that we have something to lean on when we retire,” said Prof Gwarimba, who is Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor for Zimbabwe Open University.

He said there were many business opportunities for teachers to venture into and urged them to be risk takers in order to develop their business potential.

To the Zimta president, Mrs Tendai Chikowore, civil servants have grappled with economic challenges for a long time without lasting solutions to their grievances.

She feels the on-going Government policy on black empowerment should also include teachers.

“For a long time there has been a lot of talk about the indigenisation and economic empowerment programme in Zimbabwe, but the Government has not been clear on how civil servants will benefit from the scheme.

“Often the discussions on the issue have appealed more to the private sector and teachers have been sidelined,” said Mrs Chikowore, who is also the president of the Apex Council, an umbrella body of civil servants representative bodies. She underscored the need for the Government to broaden the scope of the empowerment drive through dialogue and wide consultations towards accommodating civil servants in the scheme.

Bulawayo Metropolitan Governor and Resident Minister Cain Mathema also joined the debate and noted that it was high time that teachers be allowed to own and run businesses like everyone else.

Although he did not specify how civil servants would benefit from the empowerment drive, Minister Kasukuwere in his position paper read during the conference said the policy was meant to empower everybody including teachers.

He said the Government recognises the role played by teachers in imparting knowledge and skills that the country needs.

“By necessity they (teachers) must be empowered in their own rights. Government has found it mandatory and worthwhile to empower all indigenous Zimbabweans including teachers through the indigenisation and economic empowerment programme,” said Minister Kasukuwere.

“A majority of our people live in conditions of extreme poverty due to limited opportunities to participate in the mainstream economy as a result of the colonial system, which was based on the systematic exclusion of indigenous Zimbabweans.

“Behind every successful person there is a teacher, who must not only be afforded opportunities for empowerment but who must also have the will and determination to seize and exploit opportunities as they arise.”

He said teachers were free to engage in business partnerships with anyone in order to participate in the running of the national economy.
 

 

 

 

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