TEACHERS’ unions have roundly condemned plans announced by cabinet on Tuesday for the establishment of the Teaching Profession Council that will act as a regulatory body for the educators, saying the employer cannot form an entity to regulate employees but must allow the creation of an independent institution.
It was announced at a post-cabinet briefing that the government had approved principles of the Teaching Professional Council Bill as presented by the minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Evelyn Ndlovu.
She said the objectives of the council would be to “professionalise the teaching service and enhance the public standing of teachers; provide an independent, representative and self-regulated board to champion issues around the teaching profession; improve and maintain high quality professional standards for teachers; strengthen the professionalism in the education sector; and promote the Zimbabwean philosophy of unhu/ubuntu and holistic education.”
However, in separate interviews, Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president Obert Masaraure and Takavafira Zhou who leads the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe said the proposed plans are far from serving the interests of educators.
They accused the government of attempting to create a body that will largely work to suppress demands for better working conditions as well as victimise those who stand against the suppression.
The union leaders both reiterated that the way forward is self-regulation, not government regulation.
Masaraure said: “The outlined principles and objectives of the Teachers’ Professional Council Bill are couched to deceive teachers who have been calling for an independent self-regulatory body.
“In reality the employer seeks to create a body filled with representatives of the employer and token representation for teachers.
“Such a body will be deployed to frustrate efforts towards enjoying collective bargaining rights. Artuz will join hands with other unions to demand a TPC for teachers by teachers.”
Zhou also questioned why government was not interested in allowing professionals in the teaching industry to regulate themselves.
“The government should have simply told teacher unions to organise themselves and form a self-regulating body. The lawyers have the Law Society of Zimbabwe and doctors have their own independent regulatory body. That is what must be allowed to happen to teachers. Where on earth has the employer formed a body that regulates their employees? It is absurd,” he said.
Teachers have for long been at loggerheads with government over poor remuneration and working conditions and fears are high the state now wants to create a body that will manage the restive educators.
This year, teachers went on strike at the beginning of the first term and declared incapacitation in the preceding opening days of subsequent terms.
They are demanding that government revert to paying them their last United States dollars-indexed salaries pegged at US$540 but the government is digging in, saying it can only pay salaries in the moribund local currency that has been made valueless by ever-galloping inflation.
On the other hand, prices of basic food commodities and general living expenses have shifted beyond the reach of most civil servants in the last three weeks, setting the stage for confrontation between the government and its employees.