Govt must avert teachers' strike

HARARE - Schools will open tomorrow under a cloud of uncertainty as teachers’ unions threaten strike action if their demands for salary adjustments are not met by Wednesday.

Apart from the threats, parents and school heads are also still not sure how much they are to pay for school fees as government announced a freeze on fees ahead of schools’ opening day tomorrow.

Teachers’ unions have in the last weeks been calling for salary increases, demanding $1 000 for senior teachers and over $500 for juniors. The figures are way far below what the teachers are currently earning and government fears such increases could empty government coffers as other civil servants would eventually also fight for salaries in those brackets.

The parents who should be preparing their children for schools’ opening have been left guessing on what schools would require and if at all these learning institutions will take off considering the strike threats.

A strike will cripple the education sector and it means all students sent ahead to boarding schools will have to come back home.

And this is an extra expense to parents who are already struggling to meet school demands.

While year in and year out, government has through ministries responsible for education threatened schools against any fees increases, the schools have ignored the directives and gone ahead to implement them.

The schools, especially private ones have always argued that the fees they charged were in accordance to each particular year’s demands having put into account increases in the cost of learning materials and food for those in boarding schools.

Private schools have also argued that they supplement teachers’ salaries by providing them with incentives which have to be met by the schools.

In future, we urge government to consult schools and incorporate their concerns as they come up with such drastic measures.

While for struggling parents, the school fees increase ban is good news, they also have to bear in mind that their children need quality education that is adequately financed.

If government is to ever freeze school fees, it should be prepared to pay part of the fees and subsidise education. As it stands, government has openly said it has no money which means it cannot subsidise the education sector in the near future.

As for the teachers’ unions, we urge them to work and move together as they represent their members.

The unions should desist from sending vague pronouncements which confuse their membership because this will eventually weaken their sector.

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