BACKGROUND OF THE UNION
The Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, RTUZ was launched officially in Harare on the 12th of March 2013. The launch of the RTUZ set the tone for the fight for the improvement of both the working conditions of the rural teachers and the livelihoods of citizens living in the rural areas. The idea to form the rural teachers union was mooted in 2009 when the government of Zimbabwe introduced the incentive scheme in which teachers were to get 10% of levy paid by pupils.
The incentive scheme benefited already privileged urban teachers. The rural teachers went on to meet in Gweru in August 2009 where the teachers unanimously resolved that the rural teacher had peculiar challenges that can best be represented by an autonomous, issues based specific union to amplify the voice of the rural teacher in the pressing of their demands to the government .
The State created a rival Union with a name almost similar to RTUZ to confuse potential members and partners. In 2016 the Union amalgamated with teachers who had been recruited into the state created Union. RTUZ was subsequently renamed to Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, ARTUZ to cater for the incorporation of new members and to draw a distinction between the two Unions.
ARTUZ has established itself as a credible and legitimate voice of the teachers and the broader working class.
In 2017 under the Safe Schools Campaign, ARTUZ filed a complaint with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, ZHRC. The complaint was against the ZANU PF party which was abusing teachers, learners and schools’ property in pursuit of private political interests. ZHRC conducted an investigation and produced a damning report against the ZANU PF party and made recommendations to government to outlaw political activities in our schools. As a follow up to the ZHRC report, a court order barring the ZANU Pf party from abusing the school ecosystem was sought. ARTUZ in partnership with Veritas secured a court order granted by Justice Mafusire barring ZANU PF from accessing our schools. The order was technically reversed at Supreme Court. The Union has set up a five member Safe schools working group which is pursuing the realization of holistic safety in our schools.
In June 2018 we secured a court order compelling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC to facilitate the voting of teachers employed as polling officials. ZEC did not comply and a total of 40 000 teachers were disenfranchised from voting. The Union’s research department successfully documented the affected teachers and the evidence was used to appeal against election outcome at the Constitutional Court by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
ARTUZ has successfully offered civic education to 1 200 teachers and 525 community members focusing on digital literacy, labour law, leadership, Climate Change, Human Rights, Sexual Reproduction Health, entrepreneurship skills and the general political economy. The teacher Union has set up the Thandiwe Dube leadership school in honour of our late founding Vice President. The school has been conducting these trainings. ARTUZ is working on producing training manuals for the listed areas of study. The rural teachers’ Union has partnered with Pada Platform to enhance digital literacy in rural schools through trainings.
The Union’s welfare department mobilized exercise books for a total of 3 200 learners in schools in Mashonaland East province. The desk has also mobilized sanitary pads for 50 girls. The Union also appointed an ambassador in the United States of America who mobilized books and clothing for cyclone Idai victims.
ARTUZ successfully contributed into the education bill amendment of 2019. The Union pushed for banning of corporal punishment, setting up an education equalization fund, safe schools, devolution of education planning and improved teacher welfare.
The Union has been producing a quarterly State of the education report focusing on evaluating the quality of learning and Teacher/learner welfare.
ARTUZ has made an impact pushing for labour justice. Protests such as pockets out and salary caravan have necessitated dialogue for legislative reform in our labour laws. The Public Service act and Statutory Instrument 141 of 1997 are now set to be repealed and a new legislative framework in sync with the new constitution will be crafted. The series of job actions and street protests have angered the State which is now consistently coercing and delegitimizing ARTUZ through state violence and mass media campaigns.