by Sharon Mautsi
In beginning of the year, in January the country witnessed the strike by teachers across the country which led to about 134000 not reporting for duty due to incapacitation. However, after the 20% increment that they were granted by government, they then started to report for duty and this came at the cost of the parents whose pupils need to be afforded the right to education.
On the 22nd of February 2022, teachers at Tennyson Primary School requested incentives of US$5 from Grade One and Early Childhood Education A and B pupils on a monthly basis so that they could learn. On the other hand, Grade 7 teachers from the same school requested US$10 from each pupil. Following this announcement, some parents agreed to incentivise the learning of their children whilst some disagreed on the basis of affordability and the currency in which the money was being charged. This, however, led to the teachers scheduling for a meeting with the parents and it was held on Friday the 25th of February 2021.
In the meeting, the greater percentage of the parents agreed to pay the US$5 monthly and that pupils would no longer knock off at 1pm, but instead knock off at 3pm. Unfortunately, this agreement came at the expense of the less privileged parents who struggle to send their children with a lunch box of food and those who have to board on a daily basis to school.
Parents to these pupils really want their children to go to school and benefit just as they are paying full fees, buying uniforms and buying all the books that are necessary for them to meaningfully do so. On the other hand, they have to face teachers who in the first weeks of January, either came to school and released the pupils play in the grounds or did not show up at all. However, the parents were left in a world of no alternatives and had to agree to start paying the incentives even though over 50% of them get paid in RTGS or Zimbabwean Dollars.
Parents are being short-changed because in each class which has up to 40 pupils and each Grade One pupil paying US$5 per month, meant that the teacher would receive up to US$200 outside his/her conventional salary and yet these children only go to school about 3days a week.
However, some of the parents reported the matter the Provincial Office of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the ministry contacted the school which then warned the teachers against making parents pay incentives to them. However, due to lack of accountability, during the first week of March, teachers once again started demanding that parents pay the incentives. Further, as schools prepare for closure for the Easter holidays, parents of Grade seven pupils have been told to pay extra US $5 for holiday lessons. This is will make education more of a privilege than a right! It is the mandate of the government to pay civil servants, particularly teachers and to make sure that their salaries can sustain their basic needs. Most civil servants especially teachers live below the poverty datum line and yet they play a very important role in educating the nation and giving birth to other careers.