THE government plans to engage and deploy into primary and secondary schools a total of 29,746 teachers, a move that will whittle down the shortage of teaching staff by over 50 per cent.
At the moment the shortage stands at 57,177 teachers countrywide. It would be remiss on our part not to praise the government for this move, albeit a bit belated. Shortage of teachers is a critical problem especially in rural government schools, some of which have two or three teachers where 20 are required.
Indeed, this is an unthinkable scenario that the government seeks to turn around. President Jakaya Kikwete said early this week that 14,600 teachers will be deployed in primary schools and a further 14,060 will be posted in secondary schools. The allocation will also see 80 teachers being posted to various training colleges.
While we celebrate this State success, it is imperative to point out here that no stone should be left unturned to ensure that all teachers are paid their dues fully, including travel fares. The government found itself in quite a stink in recent years when it virtually failed to pay school teachers of their dues.
This unacceptable situation opened a can of worms. The disgruntled teachers dismayed the State by vocal demands. The government found itself heavily indebted after unexplained failures to pay teachers' benefits, including salaries. Some teachers missed salaries for years!
Others went on leave without pay. Transfer allowances and other perks became history. And there were those who got delayed promotions. And as this ordeal was not bad enough, salary adjustments remained unfixed for up to ten years. For some teachers chances for higher education became a distant dream.
Aggrieved teachers complained for long and hard, to say the least, a situation that rent even the hardest hearts. They even threatened to stage a nationwide strike. The State, however, started paying its debts in phases, an approach that, nevertheless, kept impoverishing the teachers and eroded their morale for work. The situation has not changed much so far since the government still owes some teachers their dues.
Some teachers have sad stories in connection with the predicament they are in, no wonder some of them decide to walk out in a quest to bag completely different jobs. Those whose work stations are located in remotest areas suffer the most. Some live in rented village mud huts and cover long distances on foot to school and back daily.
They teach in schools that have no running water or latrines. Under such punishing conditions, it is not only the teachers who desert their work stations, students drop out of schools too. So, while the nation is keen on nailing teachers to the classroom floors it should investigate why the canker has escalated.