Govt should consider teachers, nurses' plight

HARARE – While every Zimbabwean is agreed that the new government should urgently concentrate on reviving the economy, we believe the health and education sectors also need attention.

A previous complete ban on public sector recruitment put in place to reign in government spending crippled both sectors’ smooth operations and recent efforts to partially unfreeze posts in the two sectors have not helped much.

The shortage of drugs and critical equipment in our hospitals and clinics should be of major concern to the new government as this is compromising health delivery.

This is compounded by the critical shortage of health workers, in particular nurses and doctors. Government froze recruitment of nurses in 2011, hence crippling service delivery at hospitals mainly in rural areas, with the nurse to patient ratio critically pegged at 1,2 per 1 000 patients.

Zimbabwean nurses

While the outgoing government this year announced that it was creating 2 000 new posts, Zimbabwe Nurses Association are of the opinion that this was just a drop in the ocean as the country was still short by 8 000 nurses. Close to 4 000 trained nurses are however, roaming the streets jobless.

Most of our trained nurses have crossed borders with the majority working in neighbouring Botswana while others have found jobs in the UK.

Apart from the nurses’ plight, we also have doctors who through Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association have been raising issues to do with their welfare as they reported that the basic salary for a doctor is $329 apart from $288 on-call allowance, $49 medical allowance and $70 for housing.

Nurses are earning below $450 while health workers grievances include anomalies in the harmonisation of grades, night duty allowance and basic packages.

Government has to immediately start recruiting teachers as the Primary and Secondary Education ministry says it has 7 000 teaching vacancies since the State’s recruitment freeze. This year, government said it had unfrozen 2 300 teaching posts but this is not enough as thousands continue to join the jobless pool annually from teachers’ colleges. Many teachers left the civil service alongside other professionals at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic downturn, leaving schools severely understaffed.

Teachers, on the other hand, are earning a monthly salary of $350, which is way below the country’s poverty datum line. The new government will — hopefully — be sympathetic to the plight of nurses, doctors and teachers, hence reward them.

The new government should also revisit an audit conducted in 2011 that revealed there were more than 75 000 ghost workers in the civil service and employ genuine workers like teachers and nurses.