By Obert Masaraure
30 January 2022.
In the spirit of the new commandist culture of governance, Zimbabwe’s sole Vice President, Retired General Chiwenga announced that schools are reopening on 7 February 2022. The pronouncement was not backed by details on how government plans to address teacher Incapacitation crisis, learner Incapacitation and safety in schools. It was a hollow declaration from a government that is just ticking the box but has no regard for public education.
Zimbabwe’s education is locked in a serious crisis reflecting in the millions dropping out and the attrition between teachers and the government. One would have a expected a comprehensive education recovery plan from government but alas, they simply announce dates as if everything else is under control. The attitude of government officials towards education is informed by the fact that their own children do not learn in the public education system. They manage an education system which they cannot trust. They cannot risk to have their children in our schools.
The citizenry has also been dispossessed of the right to make choices for our nation. Our government no longer accounts to the people but to the military, business cartels, International Financiers and some foreign capitals. The government perfectly ignores the people’s call for the end of the ruining austerity measures because the people no longer matter to them. Peaceful protests are crushed by the state as citizens are reminded that this country is no longer for the citizens but for the elites occupying crucial state positions.
It is because of this reality that the working class has to find solutions to the education crisis. Such a solution should be anchored on nurturing intra class solidarity towards the revival of the classroom. Each member of the education ecosystem should embrace a mandate and execute it if Zimbabwe’s education system is to be saved.
Teachers are severely incapacitated and are not able to deliver in the classroom. Salaries were slashed from USD 540 to the current USD 90 through currency debauchery. Poverty Datumn line is over ZWL $ 73 000 but teachers still earn as little as ZWL $18 000. Teachers who also double as parents, find themselves in a dilemma on which choice to pick, either the revolutionary path of engaging in mass actions demanding a living wage or pursuing selfish route of benefitting from the crisis through extra lessons and other vices.
It is common knowledge that previous initiatives have been deflated by government’s sweetheart unions and some pretenders. Such unions always mislead the teachers by encouraging them to to work while “negotiations are being finalized.” For 5 years now teachers have been victims of the same fraud. As we seek solutions to the education crisis teachers are encouraged to disabuse themselves of the notion that the “big” yellow Unions will deliver on salaries. The solution is in the ability of the teaching fraternity embracing collective actions and confronting the employer with boldness.
The crop of teachers who choose to try private escape routes from the crisis are encouraged to dump such self defeating initiatives. The burden to pay salaries lies squarely on the shoulders of the government, it is criminal to transfer such a burden to the parents. Such measures will disenfranchise the majority poor who cannot afford to pay for private tutors. This will further entrench inequalities and sow seeds of social instability.
Teachers are encouraged to be patriotic and join hands in the fight for the restoration of pre-October 2018 salaries. That fight if won will be the catalyst for the revival of the classroom.
Zimbabwe should brace for a season of radical teacher resistance. The education crisis should not be prolonged, a solution has to be found now so that the classroom returns to normalcy.
The shocking statistics of learners dropping out of school are obviously driven by poverty and the death of the classroom due to teacher Incapacitation.
The learners are being denied a historical opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills that will help them be competitive global citizens. Every day spent without learning is another step towards a failed life. The learners cannot afford to feel like helpless victims. The learner should be at the center of the fight for the revival of the classroom.
The current generation of learners should take a leaf from the learners of the 1970s. They were also minors but they swapped the classroom for the liberation struggle. That generation was well aware of the urgent need to reconfigure the system so that you do not miss out on historical opportunity to acquire genuine skills and progressive knowledge. The task at hand for the current generation is small, just orgnising the millions of learners in public schools to demand 1. A living wage for teachers 2. Free basic education, ( funded by the state)
Learners should organize now to #SaveOurEducationZw.
It is now clear to all parents that the education crisis transcends partisan lines. All parents are failing to pay tuition fees and buy learning materials. The crisis affects soldiers, police officers, Agritex Officers, ZANU PF supporters, CCC members, workers and peasants in equal measure. Such a crisis should help us find each other as a people. It is now clear that we are a nation together afflicted by same challenges.
Parents are encouraged to join hands with teachers within their communities and collectively demand solutions to the education crisis. The parent teacher alliance should never be built around paying incentives and extra lessons. Such a scandalous relationship is not sustainable and only serves to burden the struggling parent.
When teachers call for actions we invite parents to join so that we protect our children as a collective. Parents should also organize themselves in different communities and call for #SaveOurEducationZw actions.
The magnitude of the education crisis demands a sober reflection by all citizens, actions should be informed by proper analysis of the context not propaganda from the state machinery. On 7 February schools opening is impossible if teacher salary crisis is not resolved. Majority of learners will fail to make it to the classroom if government fails to provide free education. An alliance among teachers, parents and learners has to be built urgently to force the government to deliver on the mandate of providing education.
ARTUZ National President