By Dr. Takavafira Zhou
Blame us it doesnt matter, history has always absolved us.
Against a barrage of attacks by cowards irrigating their pants who berated us as fronting opposition politics, Ptuz and a few other like minded teacher unions stood firm against the reopening of schools without meeting WHO standards. Indeed the reopening of schools was indefinitely deferred and some yellow union leaders were quick to jump into victory celebrations in a struggle they were totally against.
Lest we forget, it was Ptuz and one other teacher union that never begged President of Zimbabwe for RTGs and bond notes. A considerable number of unions nichodemously met President Mnangagwa and bragged to have begged him for RTGs that have now heaped burning coals upon the heads of the generality of Zimbabweans.
Ptuz was also in the forefront in resisting the opening of tertiary institutions. History has absolved us as no sooner had other tertiary institutions opened or were about to open than covid 19 raised its ugly head at Chinhoyi University and Nyadire Teachers’ College with the consequent closure or deferment of reopening of the institutions. Indeed several students incurred exorbitant travelling costs to their respective colleges across the country on 22 July only to be informed that reopening had been deferred indefinitely. The unnecessary travelling costs of more than US$50 could have been averted had Ministry officials been amenable to professional advice that we willingly provided. Worse still the two day extension of closure at some institutions to allow students to finish writing exams was insensitive to the threat posed by covid 19 and tantamount to false assumptions that covid 19 could not spread within two days. A considerable number of students were traumatised by preparing for exams under the threat of covid 19 pandemic. The full impact of such recklessness remains to be unravelled but may be disastrous to students in particular and the nation at large.
Lest people forget we were not part to the Victoria Falls Great Betrayal early this year where gvt romanced with some unions in hotels and boat cruising. Hope teachers have now seen the true lies of the so called ‘further negotiations’ after the Victoria Falls betrayal, which never ensued.
Neither are we part of the circus called Apex Council. When gvt was pushing for reopening of schools, it resuscitated Apex Council meeting with gvt. But once we resisted the reopening of schools, Apex Council’s meetings served no purpose and were tactfully abandoned under the guise of covid 19. Yet we are aware NJNC members hardly exceed 30 and there was no need to cancel such purportedly crucial meetings that can be done in full compliance with lockdown standards. Needless to mention Apex and gvt’s insensitivity to the welfare of workers that is puzzling.
Ptuz also came under vitriolic attacks for resisting the useless workshops by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education that totally disregarded lockdown regulations and were conducted in a risky manner to covid 19 pandemic. Yet on 22 July, PSC Circular No. 10 of 2020 fully absolved Ptuz position by banning gatherings.
We were also conspicuous by our outright condemnation of disparities between salaries of teachers and other sectors. While we are aware that the armed forces are still underpaid, we are certainly baffled by their salaries that are even six times more than that of teachers. We noted the security threat posed by the wide gap between teachers’ salaries and that of other sectors.
We also condemned the so called US$75 covid 19 risky allowance as insufficient. Indeed in spite of it’s so called immediacy effect in payment as far back as June, many teachers have not accessed it. The so called Nostro accounts are shrouded in mystery and bureaucracy and teachers have spent so much money travelling to their banks and getting nothing. It’s becoming a liability than an allowance.
We therefore encourage teachers to unite in their diversity and fight against the wide gap between their salaries and that of the other sectors. The time to realise that Apex Council is a liability is now. The time for a robust collective bargaining chamber under section 65 of the constitution is now. Teachers should therefore put pressure on their leaders in various unions to bury the Apex Council for Fozeu and fight for sector specific benefits. The issue of the restoration of October 2018 salaries pegged at US$550 can never be surrendered by any union or profession worthy its salt. General teachers in Zimbabwe must push union leaders to fight for the restoration of their purchasing power parity. As educators we need to unite across the union divide and fight for the benefit of teachers or else we will perish as fools. But unity must be built on truth and not lies, particularly over the dangers of romance with the employer, and being impregnated and immobilized by the employer. Trade unionism is about advancing the interests of members and defending any gains made. To the teachers, please make decisions and whip leadership to pursue your interests. Even legal pursuit of our dispute of right is feasible in a united front. The time to stand on the touchline to watch a game you should be playing is over. Let’s all be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Let’s walk our talk and talk our walk. A decision made must be pursued to a logical conclusion by both leaders and members. We cant all indicate to turn right and find some members turning left. Trade unionism is about group solidarity and involvement on any agreed action without fear or favour. At any rate we have nothing to fear except fear and poverty. We have a profession and dignity to protect and cannot be treated as if we are of no account. Lets remind all and sundry that teachers matter. We are indeed our own liberators. Nothing for teachers without their approval. Anything for teachers without teachers is against them.
Dr Takavafira M. Zhou is the President of Ptuz