HARARE – Teachers and government are headed for a showdown over the proposed Teachers Professional Council (TPC) which the educators fear is intended to kill trade unionism among their huge membership.
However, Primary and Secondary Education ministry has allayed those fears maintaining that it is continuing with wider consultations with the teachers.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe told the Daily News that government was misleading teachers on the purpose of the mooted council.
“We have serious misgivings about the process because we have gathered information to the effect that district education inspectors are telling educators that they will be employed on contracts and that they will have to ditch their unions as they cannot be members of trade unions and the council at the same time.
“They are causing confusion in the education sector by intimidating teachers and making them believe that the professional council is some sort of a disciplinary arm of government when it is supposed to be a regulating tool which should see teachers defining their own profession,” Majongwe said.
“We have the challenge of a government that hijacks everything that we propose and now they are going ahead with this idea without involving us because they want to create an animal they will manipulate.
“However, if they force this thing upon us, it will suffer a still birth as we will reject it. We will sabotage it, making sure that it becomes dysfunctional because we feel that government wants to bring back colonial policies where education inspectors were so powerful that they could even beat up a school headmaster,” he added.
Education permanent secretary Sylvia-Utete Masango confirmed the ministry was engaging teachers but denied Majongwe’s allegations.
“Those claims are misleading because it is not possible to alter their conditions of service but that is the responsibility of the employer (Civil Service Commission).
“Consultations are ongoing with the teacher in the classroom to get their input and we have also a team that went outside the country to exchange notes with others in Zambia, South Africa, Scotland and Ireland which have the same arrangement for teachers,” Utete-Masango said.
Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira was not taking calls and she had not responded to the questions texted to her at the time of going to print.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said either teachers or government were misinterpreting the requirement that educators will have to renew their professional licences on a regular basis.
“It is a misinterpretation of what the council seeks to achieve because renewing one’s professional licence is different from contract employment,” Ndlovu said.
The Education ministry is currently holding workshops with teachers throughout the country to educate them on the “need to bring sanity” to one of the country’s oldest professions.
If approved, the TPC will see teachers joining other professions like doctors and lawyers who get certificates before they practice and could be de-registered if they fall foul of standing regulations.
The idea came amid concerns of a marked decline in the character and moral values of teachers and also an increase in cases of indiscipline, corruption, sexual and physical abuse in schools.
While education stakeholders have generally welcomed the council that defines who a teacher is and will be given legal standing through an Act of Parliament, unions have expressed concern that government wants to manipulate the process to kill trade unionism.
Former Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere said as long as the council is legally constituted, the idea was brilliant.
“What is important is that the TPC should be justiciable hence the need to set it up through an Act of Parliament in case there are legal issues that might arise but it will be unfair to comment on its contents before its framework is established,” Chigwedere said.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) complained that the process leading to the establishment of the council was “exclusive and secretive.”
“On the TPC, Artuz recommends the opening up of the space to make it inclusive, broad-based and teacher-driven. There must be nothing for teachers without teachers.
“We also call for an immediate stop to the dubious charade which is currently going on for consultations on the TPC and to replace it with proper consultations spearheaded by representatives of teachers and other regional and international partners who have had experience in setting up a TPC,” Artuz said in a statement.
Other professionals such as nurses and lawyers in Zimbabwe have boards which monitor their entrance and exit, as well as making sure that ethics and professionalism are maintained.
In South Africa, the teaching profession has the South African Council for Educators which not only regulates and protects entry into the profession but also sets minimum requirements for entry.
Zambians have their own Teaching Council of Zambia (TCZ) which was set up to improve the teaching profession and enhance the delivery of quality education.