A RURAL teachers’ union has accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of lying to the world during a meeting in New York last month in which he told the gathering that Zimbabwe was adequately funding the education sector in line with dictates of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) has written to Mnangagwa imploring him to bring to reality the conditions he said existed in the education sector.
The petition was presented to Mnangagwa’s Chief Secretary Misheck Sibanda at his Munhumutapa offices in Harare on Thursday. A copy seen by The NewsHawks also features date stamps of other arms of government that were copied.
These are the Parliament of Zimbabwe, ministry of Finance and Economic Development, ministry of Primary and Secondary Education as well as the Public Service Commission.
Obert Masaraure, the Artuz president, confirmed the development.
“The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe misinformed a gathering at Transforming Education Summit on the 19th September. He claimed that government is meeting the Unesco threshold of 6% of GDP [gross domestic product]. This is at a time when only 2.3% was allocated to the education sector in 2021,” Masaraure said.
“This angered the teachers who are enduring the impact of underfunding. Both learners and teachers are incapacitated, but the President had the audacity to lie to the world. Teachers are now asking the President to align what he said at the TES summit with the reality on the ground.”
In the petition, the teachers took Mnangagwa to task over his New York speech at the TES summit.
“You (Mnangagwa) made it known to the world that education in Zimbabwe is highly accessible because of adequate funding with government spending 6% of gross domestic product on education and you further pledged free basic education in 2023,” the teachers wrote.
“Unfortunately your statement contradicts the factual reality on the ground. We bring to your attention the following figures, looking at the 2021 budget: The Incheon Declaration for Education (2015) to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, mandates governments to spend at least 4 to 6% of national gross domestic product towards education.
“Nominal GDP for 2021 was at ZW$2.3 trillion, (about US$29.3 billion), 4% would be ZW$95.9 billion while 6% will be ZW$143.9 billion. The 2021 budget for education was ZW$55.2 billion which signifies 2.3% of 2021 national GDP.”
The teachers said both the Dakar Declaration and Incheon Declaration mandate signatory states to allocate 20% of national budget towards education.
“The 2021 budget for education could have been ZW$84.3 billion. The ZW$55.2 billion amounted to 13.09% of annual national budget. The ZW$55.2 billion translated to US$674 million using 2021 rates. This was a big drop from US$1.162 billion allocated in 2019, US$905 million 2018 and US$803 million in 2017,” reads part of the petition.
The rural teachers further informed Mnangagwa that the underfunding of the education sector has led to multiple crises in the education sector as well as incapacitation of the educators whose salaries have dropped from US$540 in October 2018 to a gross income of US$297 when Covid-19 allowances are factored in.
“These teachers are failing to make it to the classroom and when they are in the classroom they are not giving much because they are demoralised. Your excellence US$540 was a product of collective bargaining but your government reversed a collective bargaining agreement,” reads the petition.
“That was illegal and cruel on the teachers who work hard to serve our great country. Numeracy rates and literacy rates are resultantly dropping as acknowledged in the NDS 1 [National Development Strategy]. These teachers are not being afforded a chance to engage in continuous learning since study leave is not paid.
“Learners are dropping out from our schools because they can no longer afford to pay for education. The NDS 1 strategy notes that our education is now heavily relying on funding from parents. This is at a time when over 80% of the parents live in poverty.”
As a solution, the teachers want Mnangagwa to reinstate pre-October 2018 salaries of US$540, devolve management of education, address curriculum deficits and skills development for the country’s educators, promote labour justice and invest heavily in technology and infrastructure in schools.
The confrontation between Mnangagwa and rural teachers came barely a day after the country joined the international community in celebrating the World Teachers’ Day whose theme this year was: “The transformation of education begins with teachers.” The days is celebrated on 5 October every year.
In the past, teachers in Zimbabwe have held protests in the form of strike actions like sit-ins, stayaways and picketing to push for implementation of demands they raise in their petition.