Teachers this week called off a strike despite their wage demands not being met. Education minister David Coltart said the government had no money to raise their salaries, but he had agreed to help teachers by giving their children free schooling.
Teachers’ groups said they accepted the government was struggling for funds and needed time to raise revenue. Teachers are paid a US$ 100 allowance per month but unions wanted four times as much.
In an interview with RadioVOP, Takavafira Zhou, PTUZ president, said the majority of teachers had anticipated an industrial action and used the little money they had put aside for travel expenses and on other equally important commitments.
"I think about 35 percent of teachers have not managed to go back to their respective schools. The reality of the situation is that the majority of the teachers had entered into an industrial mood and had spent the little money that they had on other important commitments.
“When we then said teachers must go back to work following promises by donors that they would at least find something to enable us to make ends meet, a number of teachers were caught unawares, their plight is genuine and they have no money and all we can do as their representative organisation is appeal to teachers to continue looking for money to return to their respective schools.
Zhou also urged the responsible authorities not to adopt a hardline stance and punish teachers for their failure to raise money to cover travel expenses.
"Government must accept the authenticity of teachers’ plight. Industrial action may not necessarily bring something, as the government was inflexible and irresponsible, claiming that it has no money. We are hopeful that teachers still have an interest in carrying out their work; we hope that the majority of the teachers will manage to go back to their stations.
"What is doubtful is whether the donor community will provide the resources that they had promised because in the event that the donor community prevaricates and fails to perhaps to do something to lessen the plight of teachers by June, it will be difficult for those teachers who have returned to remain at those schools. So we are only hopeful that something meaningful will trickle to the teachers by June failure of which it will be difficult to assure donors and the nation that schools will remain open," Zhou said.