THERE has been a mass exodus of teachers from public schools this year amid claims by unions the number of those that have resigned could be well over 10 000.
The poorly remunerated teachers mainly quit to look for work in neighbouring countries or join better paying private schools that have mushroomed all over the country in the past few years.
Progressive Teacher's Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Takavafira Zhou said the number of those ditching the once venerated job was expected to keep growing unless there was a major turnaround in the country's economic situation.
There are about 136 000 who sweat it daily to teach 4,6 million learners in Zimbabwe.
According to Zhou, the mass exodus is a result of government's failure to address salary discrepancies between teachers and other government workers resulting to teachers becoming the poorest civil servants and often subjected to ridicule even by those who have never been to school.
He went further to say some teachers have turned to artisanal miners while others have turned to vending with some leaving for greener pastures outside the country.
Added Zhou, "Another driving force has been failure by government to prioritise the health and safety of teachers.
"Several teachers have decided to protect themselves and their families by leaving teaching.
"With the quantum leap of Covid-19 cases among teachers and pupils, there is danger that the resignation rate might exceed 20 000 by January 2021.
"Worse still, 99.9% of all remaining teachers have mentally resigned from the profession although they physically remain at their stations.
"This is a dangerous scenario for any profession and calls for urgent intervention by government in order to stabilise the situation and guarantee quality public education and skills revolution as envisaged in Agenda 2030."
In his comments, Zhou stated that the situation was so dire that some teachers were now unable to send their own children to access a service they are offering.
He called on teachers not to bank on the negotiations by the Apex Council which he described as treacherous but stand on their own.
"Teachers have fallen from grace to grass because of the government's failure to restore their salary's purchasing power parity pegged at US$520-US$550. There is urgent need for a rescue intervention unless government want to be remembered for destroying the education system in Zimbabwe.
"The challenge in the education system also calls upon all teachers across the teacher unions' divide to bury their differences and fight together as brothers and sisters for status restoration.
"A united front is not an option but a must for all teachers in 2021. Teachers cannot continue to bank on treacherous Apex Council and hope for better results when a thorn tree has never produced apples. In 2021, all teachers must be part of the solution and not part of the problem."
Minister of Primary and Secondary education, Cain Mathema professed any ignorance about the departure of teachers from the profession for other options.
"I am hearing that for the first time. I don't know where he is getting his figures. I haven't received such a report at the moment. I don't belong to his organisation anyway, so I am in the dark. Maybe he knows better," said Mathema.