During this year’s commemorations of World Teachers Day in Kwekwe, educators expressed their grief over the deteriorating state of the teaching profession. The teachers, who are facing numerous challenges, are united in their call for better working conditions and overall support from the government.
Countless teachers face immense difficulties in their line of work. Inadequate salaries, insufficient classroom resources, poor infrastructure, and a challenging work environment continue to take a toll on the teachers’ well-being. These adversities have left many mourning the decline of their beloved profession.
Speaking on behalf of the teaching community in his keynote address, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President Dr Takavafira Zhou said that the teaching profession has become a mockery in society.
“…we must appreciate the efforts of a teacher for doing so much with so little. So in Zimbabwe, we are not celebrating contrary to other communities that are celebrating throughout the world. We are mourning the fall of the teaching profession, people are now shy to publicly reveal that they are teachers. Long back teachers were celebrated in the community, now even to be proposed by a teacher the community will say look for better ones. As teachers here no one wants their children to become teachers. Gone are the days when children used to write compositions, that say ‘When I grow up I want to be a teacher’. One of my kids claimed he wanted to be a police officer when he grew up citing that they are always collecting money on roadblocks.
“…inadequate learning materials, composite classes, the majority of teachers are tenants teachers who do not have houses the majority of the teachers are being nicknamed Friday to Friday because you wear one pair of shoes from Monday to Friday, with one shirt and one tie because you can not afford. The job requires you to wear a suit, that you can’t afford to buy with your salary.
“…we are mourning the profession because of low salaries, and the absence of collective bargaining. We do not have a collective bargaining forum. We have a collective backing, currently, the cabinet can just sit and say let us give teachers such salary, no collective bargain. We have limited budget allocation. We have an agreement as African countries, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary must be allocated 22% of the total budget, yet we are allocating 12% only. So without going anywhere, we are failing as African countries. We know agriculture is supposed to be 10% according to the Maputo Declaration, and health is supposed to be 15% according to the Abuja Declaration, these are agreements by African countries that we are failing to own as Zimbabwe.
“This year’s theme highlights the shortage of teachers. Currently, in Zimbabwe, we have a shortage of over 50,000 teachers. We have a shortage of teachers coupled with a shortage of salaries. There is no product that can come out of that. In other words, we are trying the impossible. If you want to produce the best quality education, you need a quality teacher. Are there enough resources, and is the profession attracting the best personnel because the truth of the matter is that teaching is now attracting the worst personnel. An ordinary person who has failed exams and eventually after six attempts passes and just decides to venture into teaching after realising there are no jobs do so because of the conditions of teachers. But if we can improve the teachers’ conditions we can attract the best personnel, and the best expertise and then produce the best results,” remarked Dr Zhou.
This is despite the fact that treating teachers well promotes their physical and mental well-being. Providing a supportive work environment, access to healthcare, and promoting work-life balance helps teachers maintain good health, enabling them to effectively perform their roles in educating children (SDG#3). Furthermore recognizing and protecting the rights and dignity of teachers contributes to creating a just and peaceful society. Respecting teachers’ rights, including freedom of expression and association, fosters an environment of trust, where teachers can carry out their responsibilities effectively, without fear of repercussions (SDG#16).
The Zimbabwean teachers’ appeal for improved conditions includes a demand for a sufficient increase in salaries, the provision of essential teaching resources, and enhanced infrastructure in schools. By addressing these concerns, the teachers believe that the quality of education imparted to their students will vastly improve.
“…let us restore teachers’ salaries to USD$540, and maintain the current allowance. If you look from 1980 on average, a teacher was earning USD$540, let us restore that.
Recognizing the significance of teachers’ role in the development of the nation, numerous civil society organizations and education advocates have expressed solidarity with Zimbabwean educators. They are urging the government to prioritize the needs of the teaching profession and allocate more resources towards education.
“On this World Teachers Day, let us not turn a blind eye to the struggles faced by teachers in Zimbabwe, who mourn the death of their beloved profession. These committed individuals continue to face countless challenges and hardships, striving to provide quality education despite inadequate resources and poor conditions. It is concerning to see the teaching profession losing its appeal due to the lack of support and recognition. It is imperative that we prioritize the well-being of our teachers, offering them better conditions, fair compensation, and opportunities for professional growth. As a society, we must acknowledge the invaluable contributions of teachers and come together to uplift and empower them. Only then can we ensure a bright and promising future for our children and the generations to come,” said Climate Justice Zimbabwe Programs Officer Tariro Karimanzira.
“It is deeply disheartening to witness teachers in Zimbabwe mourning the death of the teaching profession on World Teachers Day. These dedicated individuals, who play such a crucial role in shaping the future of our nation, are struggling and calling out for better conditions. It is high time that their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed. Investing in education means investing in our future, and that begins with supporting and valuing our teachers. Let us come together to ensure that these passionate educators are granted the resources, fair remuneration, and improved working conditions they deserve,” added social commentator Romeo Mhazi.
Treating teachers well involves various aspects such as fair remuneration, professional development opportunities, a safe and inclusive work environment, and recognition for their dedication and hard work. It also includes empowering teachers to use innovative teaching methods, providing access to resources and technologies, and involving them in the decision-making processes related to education policies.
“How can a primary or secondary pupil do such a lot of CALAs? It is pointless, there should be one CALA in each subject area. This is why students are buying exam papers at ZIMSEC, it is pointless. But skill cannot be bought. So let us do it in a better manner one CALA is sufficient per subject area,” added Dr Zhou.
The plight of the Zimbabwean teachers resonates with educators worldwide, who face similar challenges in their respective countries. On World Teachers Day, educators from different parts of the globe join hands in solidarity, amplifying their voices for better teaching conditions for all.
By prioritizing the well-being and professional growth of teachers, we not only enhance the quality of education but also contribute to achieving a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable society for all. It is crucial that government, educational institutions, and communities collaborate to ensure that teachers are valued, supported, and given the necessary tools to excel in their vital role.