Zimbabwe: 2020 - Year of Protecting and Expanding Our Commons

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The government of Zimbabwe has embarked on a spirited offensive aimed at destroying all the commons in Zimbabwe. They have destroyed healthcare, halted water supply, switched of electricity and are now destroying our once enviable education system. We have a government showing ordinary citizens the middle finger, we have no other option but to unite and fight back to defend and expand our commons in 2020.

The 2020 budgetary allocation for education is clear testimony that our government has no love for our education sector. We last received such a low budgetary allocation in the ESAP era and in 2000 when resources were diverted towards constitutional reform. Austerity measures are still in place contrary to the misleading statements from the Minister of Finance. The ZW$ 8.5 billion allocated to education is not enough to cater for inter-bank rate salaries for the 140 000 teachers who are supposed to attend to our learners. Even if we were going to channel 100% of the allocated budget towards wages only, teachers will still be underpaid. There is nothing available for capital investment at a time when we have a shortage of over 2000 schools.

Our government has reneged on its constitutional mandate of providing basic education.

In previous years we have confined ourselves to the fight for labour justice for our membership. We have demanded a living wage and better working conditions but we have failed to work hand in hand with the parents and learners to holistically push for inclusive access to quality education for our learners. We were working in our isolated silo. The state took advantage and brutalized our members and incited parents against our teachers. We have to close that chapter and unite with the parents of our learners.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) will lead the process of reconstituting the Parents Teachers Association, PTA at a national level and build structures down to school level. This is a vehicle for parents and teachers to come together lobbying and advocating for inclusive access to quality education for our learners. The PTA will also be involved in education management through advising the School Development Associations, SDA. The SDAs established through statutory Instrument 70 of 1993 are currently entrusted with education management but they only incorporate School administrators excluding the teachers.

ARTUZ will not bask in yesteryear glory, we will escalate our fight for a living wage with more protests lined up for the year 2020. Our national congress to be held from 8 to 10 January will resolve on a concrete way forward. The Congress will be convened under the theme "Reigniting hope and defining the course of the working class struggle in the face of heightened repression and austerity." We are positive that congress delegates will come up with bold resolutions to protect our education.

The National Executive Council, NEC of ARTUZ has already resolved that schools will not open in January until the salary crisis is resolved. We are glad that sister Unions have endorsed declaration and call upon parents to support this revolutionary cause.

The teachers of Zimbabwe are earning around US$30 per month which is not enough to cater for education for their dependents, food, shelter, healthcare and even transport to work.

The parents are also failing to secure learning materials and school fees for their children. The learners are traumatized by the brutal economic conditions and our teachers are severely incapacitated. Government is not disbursing sufficient funds for Basic Education Access Model to support vulnerable learners. The school ecosystem is in the intensive care and opening schools is virtually impossible.

We will not pretend to be teaching when we are not. We can't hazard the future of innocent children by giving them substandard education. We will teach when the conditions are right. The poor performance of the 2019 Grade 7 class is a wakeup call for both parents and teachers. We have a duty to find a lasting solution to the education crisis.

Our objectives for 2020:

Recruit more teachers to join the fight for a pro poor education system

Build an alliance with the parents of our learners

Research on alternative education policies and table to government

We still demand:

Interbank pegged salaries using our old United States dollar salaries as benchmark

A substantive rural retention attraction allowance to incentivize rural teachers

An education equalization fund to enhance access to quality education for marginalized communities

Fully Paid study leave for all teachers

Restoration of the legally provided vacation leave

Review of the new curriculum

Devolution of education planning and management

Expanding of social security to cover health care by a more transparent and accountable National Social Security Authority.

The scrapping of the opaque pension contribution replaced with a more transparent system.

Employment of more teachers to resolve the crisis of staff shortages.

We commit ourselves to:

Provide ICT and leadership training for teachers and learners

Provide study loans for our members

Facilitate exchange visits for teachers

Produce and popularize safe schools regulations to enhance teacher and learner safety in schools

Provide comprehensive Sexual Reproduction Health Rights education for our learners and teachers

Produce quarterly reports on state of education and a labour justice index

Provide education on climate change to our rural communities

Initiate income generating projects for both teachers and communities

Teach learners for free away from the government run schools until salary crisis is resolved.

Provide comprehensive education on Zimbabwe's political economy for teachers, learners and communities

In 2020 we will protect and expand our commons. We will reach out to other citizens to build solid alliances.

Source: Obert Masaraure, Amalgamated Rural Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)

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