PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has said the Government will not be arm-twisted by striking teachers into succumbing to their demands, saying only those reporting for duty will be paid.
Teacher representatives are calling for a minimum salary of US$520 or the equivalent at the auction rate.
However, the Government has indicated that it is not in a position to pay in US dollars given that the local currency has been reintroduced.
Government gave all examination classes the nod to resume a fortnight ago, but the reopening of schools has been marred by the teachers’ industrial action, forcing some schools to send pupils back home.
Speaking during a briefing in Mutare on Wednesday, the President said there was no going back in ensuring the smooth flow of lessons in schools.
“I have heard that after schools reopened in Manicaland, only 30 percent of teachers have reported for duty. Let me assure all of you that Government will never be held to ransom by the teachers.
“By failing to report for duty, they think they will push us to do what they want. No, we are very principled on that. However, we are happy that some have gone back to work.
“We will apply the principle that those who work will get paid. Those who are at home are not considered to be at work,” said President Mnangagwa.
Earlier this week, teachers’ unions vowed to continue with the industrial action as negotiations with Government.
Some teachers were only clocking in, marking registers, giving pupils assignments and vanishing from their work stations.
Others are allegedly conducting illegal private lessons for a premium US$10 per subject or US$20 for Grade Seven classes monthly.
On Wednesday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said an average of 29 percent of teachers had been reporting for duty countrywide, adding that those teachers could cope with the examination classes that are back in school.
Minister Mathema said the Government was doing all it could to address the teachers’ grievances.
He said Government, with support from some partners, has created safe teaching and learning environments in schools.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it other socio-economic challenges that have impacted the education sector, including the welfare of our teachers, learners and their families.
“In line with the labour regulations of our land, negotiations are underway to address the teachers’ concerns to ensure their full attendance at schools.
“I commend the participation of all sectors, including the private sector, in ensuring that safe school environments are provided to all the children of Zimbabwe so that they enjoy their basic right to education. There is room for more contributions towards the promotion of quality 21st Century education that will transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy by 2030,” said Minister Mathema.
He said a lot of work has been done to ensure the safety of learners, teachers and non-teaching staff in schools.
“The first phase of the re-opening of schools is now underway while preparations for the remaining two phases are in progress. In line with the need to observe physical distancing, the ministry is currently recruiting 2 300 teachers. Thereafter, the ministry will be recruiting another 3 000 to cater primarily for the smaller classes as dictated by the Covid-19 guidelines.
“While many plans have been disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Education Sector Response Plan recognises our commitment to fulfil the right to inclusive, quality and safe education for all. It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic threatens this promise, particularly as it deepens other vulnerabilities and widens other inequalities,” said Minister Mathema.
He applauded development partners that have continued supporting the education sector.
“Development partners have provided additional funding to complement Treasury allocations for the provision of safe water sources and other WASH infrastructure in schools, the procurement and distribution of essential Covid-19 requirements such as personal protective equipment, hygiene kits, disinfectants, and infrared thermometers,” said the minister.
He said the education sector has been innovative during the prolonged closure of schools.
“The usual learning and teaching methods were affected while virtual learning was an alternative method to try and close the gap in learning,” said the minister.