Teachers scoff at government threats

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TEACHERS have vowed to embark on a crippling strike on the opening day of the coming school term despite threats from government.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima told State media that government would not allow the situation in the education sector to “deteriorate into chaos”.

But Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe fiery secretary general Raymond Majongwe told Mavima to “stay out”.

Mavima was responding to teachers’ declaration of a strike beginning May 8 if their demands were not met.

“It is not his mandate. Teachers are not employed by his ministry and he has no business poking his nose into this issue,” Majongwe told NewsDay yesterday.

Mavima was quoted as having said educators wanted to use the same modus operandi as nurses and doctors. “The pressure that these unions are attempting to put on government should be viewed in the correct context, that of trying to follow the same route taken by doctors and more recently nurses,” Mavima said. He added that government would be meeting with teachers this week.

Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union (Fozeu) spokesperson Emmanuel Nyawo said they had not been invited formally, adding it would be unfortunate for government to politicise the teachers’ grievances.

“We have tried to engage government as the education sector because we feel we have issues that are specific to us and not to the rest of the civil service as represented by the Apex Council, but we have received no joy. We wrote three letters to minister (Simbarashe) Mumbengegwi (Public Service), but he did not even have the courtesy to acknowledge them.

“It would be very unfortunate if government were to try and politicise these issues. These are genuine grievances by teachers,” Nyawo said, adding government promises since 2013 have not materialised.

Asked if the threats from government would scare them, Nyawo said as long as the issues the teachers unions have tabled were not addressed there was likely to be a chaotic situation at the opening of the new school term.

“We have a resolution and I must say this is not Nyawo’s message, that as long as these issues are not addressed then our members will not report for duty. We note that government has sent us an informal invitation to engage and we are ready. We would be surprised and dismayed if government tries to equate our situation with the nurses or doctors issue. It would be really sad,” the Fozeu spokesperson said.

Majongwe had no kind words for Mavima.

“He (Mavima) must know that he is occupying a public office and threats do not work. We had expected him to take a different approach to issues from the one used by his predecessor (Lazarus) Dokora who ran the education sector aground. If he wants a combative approach to issues he will get just that,” Majongwe said.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association resolved at its conference in Victoria Falls last week to “withdraw its membership” from work from May 8, the day schools are supposed to open for the second term.

Government last month reacted angrily to a strike by nurses claiming there was an opposition political hand behind the industrial action. Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga then pulled the plug on 15 000 nurses and reportedly used strong-arm tactics forcing the Zimbabwe

Nurses Association to withdraw a High Court application challenging the dismissals.