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Rural teachers declare poverty, strike



RURAL teachers have downed their tools after officially declaring incapacitation to the government as a new wave of price increases is pushing the cost of living to astronomical levels.


In an interview with The NewsHawks on Wednesday, Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) secretary-general Robson Chere said rural teachers are reeling under dire economic conditions.

The union says President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is hitting teachers “below the belt” by paying painfully low salaries which are heavily taxed. “The minute RTGS of approximately ZW$800 000 and the heavily taxable USD component of US$250 (after taxes) is hitting the teacher below the belt,” he said.

“The irony of rural teachers is that they suffer both government taxes and more burden as it is upon their shoulders to take care of the extended family, among other recurring expenses.

“It is evident that many rural teachers have been earning salaries that are insufficient to cover basic living expenses such as food, housing, transportation, and healthcare thus they resort to using indigenous knowledge systems as an alternative.”

Chere said new taxes levied on salaries have led to a sharp decline in earnings, eroding the buying power of poverty-stricken teachers. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube introduced new taxes in a effort to widen the revenue base.

 “The introduction of new taxes by Mthuli Ncube, the minister of Finance and Economic Development in Zimbabwe, has further exacerbated the financial challenges faced by rural teachers,” he said.

 “One notable tax that has affected many Zimbabweans, including teachers, is the 2% tax on electronic transactions. This tax has been criticised for its impact on individuals who rely on electronic payments for their daily transactions. For rural teachers who may not have easy access to physical bank branches or prefer electronic transactions for convenience, this tax has added an extra financial burden.”

A study conducted by the African Institute for Development Policy found that 52% of Zimbabwean teachers are involved in some form of income-generating activities outside of their regular teaching jobs.

“This not only reduces their effectiveness as educators but also highlights the extent of the problem faced by rural teachers in the country.

 “To address this issue, the government of Zimbabwe must take immediate action to improve the salary structure and tax system to ensure that rural teachers can adequately provide for their families and fulfill their role as educators in the country. As Artuz, the champions of pro-poor education, we continuously and persistently engage the employer, which is the government, to give teachers a living wage of US$1 260,” said Chere.

The rural teachers have since submitted a letter addressed to Primary and Secondary Education ministry permanent secretary Moses Mhike, saying due to the erosion of the ZW$800 000 allowance by inflation and taxes imposed on the US$300 salary, the educators are now incapacitated to continue reporting for duty in the countryside. In the letter signed by Chere, the teachers further told the government that despite the fact that the teachers in rural areas are dedicated to their arrears, the current state of affairs has left them stranded.

Part of the letter reads: “Due to the erosion of the RTGS, and high taxes on the USD component of our salaries, we find it difficult to cope and and it is now a fact that teachers have become heavily incapacitated.

“The current economic recession characterised by high taxation and price hikes has led to a significant decline in the purchasing power of the RTGS, making it difficult for teachers to meet their financial obligations by further straining their limited resources.” Chere called for dialogue to resolve the crisis.

“It is essential that all stakeholders, including the government employers, recognise the importance of addressing these challenges and find ways to cushion teachers. “By working together, we can develop sustainable solutions that will benefit both teachers and the education system as a whole,” reads another section of the letter.