THE Zimbabwe Teachers' Association (Zimta) wants government to pay a qualified teacher at least $1 000 per month in line with trends in the Southern African region.
In an interview ahead of commemorations of World Teachers' Day today, Zimta chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said there was "nothing much to celebrate".
"What are we celebrating?" queried the Zimta chief executive officer. "In Zimbabwe we are merely celebrating the existence of the teaching profession itself.
"As you know, the profession is an important one as it is the mother of all other professions. But Zimbabwean teachers have over the years been reduced to paupers.
"That is why when we met Public Service minister Honourable (Nicholas) Goche yesterday (Thursday) we proposed the salary of a qualified teacher to be above the poverty datum line, to be at least about $1 000 per month including allowances."
Ndlovu said the proposal was in line with what teachers in other countries get in the region with "more or less the same economic resource endowments like our country".
He said teachers wanted their salaries to be pegged at the level of those from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.
Ndlovu said local teachers were getting $290 per month without allowances and the figure rises to about $400 when other perks were included and consequently had lost the former glory that used to be associated with being a teacher.
"In the past a teacher would have a simple Mazda F1300 truck, but now a teacher cannot afford to buy a motorbike and even a bicycle," he said.
"A teacher would own a shop and if he was living in a rural area, have a sizeable herd of cattle, which was a sign of the value of teacher then. But all that is gone.
"But as we commemorate World Teachers' Day we will be hoping that President (Robert) Mugabe will fulfil the promises he made about looking at the plight of civil servants. The meetings we have had with government officials on this are a step in the right direction."
In his campaign in the run-up to the presidential elections, Mugabe, a teacher by profession, pledged to review upwards the salaries of civil servants.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said it was mindful of the plight of Zimbabwean teachers who were toiling under difficult conditions characterised by meagre salaries as well as ill-equipped classrooms.
"Previously, it used to be the wish of every child to be a teacher, but over the years this has changed as their status has been greatly eroded such that most teachers do not dream of driving a car, let alone owning a house. Like every worker, a teacher deserves to work in a decent environment," ZCTU said.
"We call upon the government to seriously look into the plight of teachers and award teachers nothing less than the poverty datum line wages."
The poverty datum line is about $550 per month.