Talent Chimutambgi Review writer
Teachers would like Government to establish a teaching professional council which would ensure teacher professionalism through ethical codes of standards. They also want Government to introduce non-monetary incentives including subsidised accommodation. The council would also help teachers keep abreast with new educational policies, research and development.
These sentiments were aired by various teacher organisation leaders at a gathering held in Africa Unity Square on Saturday to belatedly commemorate World Teachers’ Day.
“We need to create a teaching professional council to guide the teaching process so as to improve the quality of education,” said College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe (COLAZ) president Mr David Dzatsunga.
He said a set of clearly spelt out ethics and standards would guide teachers in comporting themselves professionally at all time. Other organisations represented included the Association of University Teachers (AUT), College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe (COLAZ), Zimbabwe Democratic Teachers Union (ZDTU, Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ), Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ) and Educational Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI. The labour organisation leaders all expressed themselves to be in support of the creation of a professional council.
Association of University Teachers vice president Mr Munyaradzi Mavesere praised the role of teachers in national development. He said a professional council would help teachers keep abreast with new educational policies, research and development.
Other speakers said that currently teachers are represented by a number of unions and associations which sometimes fail to speak with a unified voice thus weakening the voices of their members.
This year’s WTD was running under the theme “Empowering teachers. Building sustainable societies”.
The teachers assembled at Rainbow Towers for a march to Africa Unity Square across Harare’s CBD. They carried placards and were accompanied by drum majorettes. Primary and Secondary Education minister Dr Lazarus Dokora took part in the march. The WTD is traditionally celebrated on October 5 following the International Labour Organisation in 1966.
The teacher organisations also urged Government to urgently address the issue of non-monetary incentives to keep teachers motivated.
ZIMTA chief executive officer Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said teachers’ demands are quite modest with the priority being the push for decent accommodation.
“There are demands for proper accommodation that is commensurate with teachers’ professionalism, whether at institutions or our own houses, as well as well-built classrooms which are all essential to enhance the quality of education,” said Mr Ndlovu
Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ) national secretary general Mr Ottoman Magaya expressed concern over the number of teachers who have lost money to land barons.
He said local authorities should step in through rural and urban councils so that teachers do not keep turning to keep on getting conned out of their investments.
“Government employees are not wealthy, therefore the Government should give its employees non-monetary benefits like land,” said Mr Magaya. Mr Dzatsunga also pleaded with Government to provide teachers with land also emphasising the vulnerability of teachers to accommodation scams.
“May the Government provide us with land for houses to protect us from land barons because the majority of the people who are falling victim to land barons are teachers.”
Teachers serving in the rural areas presented their own unique expectations:
Rural Teachers Association of Zimbabwe (RTUZ) president Mr Obert Masaraure said rural teachers should be motivated through compensatory allowances, land for farming, and proper institutional accommodation so that rural schools will not remain understaffed as teachers shun teaching in rural areas.
He said rural teachers put up with a myriad problems such as transport to travel to the work places, isolation due to lack of mobile network coverage and water problems.
“We are suffering from challenges ranging from poor infrastructure, transport, limited institutional accommodations, among others. We therefore urge the government to intervene by providing rural teachers with compensatory allowances and land for farming to motivate them so that rural schools will not remain understaffed.
Teachers’ demands were not just focused on individual remuneration as they also made known the challenges that they believe are hindering the learning process in schools. Mr Ndlovu said the need to construct more schools and increase classrooms cannot be overemphasised.“The construction of more schools should be a priority in order to decongest schools as many schools are overcrowded. Some schools have up to 3 000 pupils – a number which is difficult to manage. But 1 500 pupils would be easier to manage,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Minister Dokora has announced that Government plans to build 2 000 new schools. These are mostly targeted at resettlement areas where some children are walking long distances to school.
The teachers also expressed the need to fill schools with qualified teachers for optimum lesson delivery.
“We are calling for an immediate removal of temporary teachers in the education sector if quality education is to be realised.
“Becoming a teacher is a process whereby one undergoes a training on the etiquettes of teaching standards for dealing with pupils of different levels of understanding, unlike temporary teachers they lake the etiquettes of teaching,” said Mr Dzatsunga.
Mr Ndlovu said, “Every child should be exposed to a qualified teacher, a teacher who knows how to handle the mind of a learner.”
Minister Dokora has said that the Government intends to weed out 20 000 unqualified teachers in the system. These are mostly degreed teachers who do not hold the Graduate Certificate in Education.
The education system has been staffed by such people for decades, especially in secondary schools. It does not appear as though there has been a study to establish the failure rate of pupils taught by this class as versus those taught by certified teachers.
Several tertiary institutions including Bindura University of Science Education and Zimbabwe Open University are offering in-service parallel study programmes for teachers desiring further certification.
In his speech at the event, Dr Dokora applauded the unity of purpose by the organisations towards highlighting teachers’ issues and promised to prioritise improved teachers working conditions as a long way to ensure delivery of inclusive quality public education especially under the newly reviewed curriculum.
He promised to collaborate with ministries that have a stake in education to ensure that teachers get decent accommodation.
Mr Ndlovu applauded the efforts by the government through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to improve teaching standards through the recently implemented education blue-print.
Colaz secretary general Mr Jinngy Makarudze said this year’s WTD was celebrated historically as all stakeholders gathered at Africa Unity square to air their views and grievances. He said in previous years political differences have divided the teacher representative bodies.
“This year’s WTD was celebrated historically as all stakeholders in the educational fraternity convened with the same vision. Teachers union buried their political differences and celebrate the day as a united force, a style which is unique for the first time,” said Mr Makarudze.