Zimbabwe teachers go on strike days after schools resume classes

A security guard checks the temperature of children entering the schools premises at a government school in Harare, Wednesday, Feb, 9, 2022. A pay strike by teachers has paralyzed learning at many Zimbabwean schools, which belatedly opened on Monday after a pandemic-induced prolonged closure. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
A security guard checks the temperature of children entering the school’s premises at a government school in Harare, Wednesday, February 9, 2022. /AP Photo

A teachers’ strike has paralyzed learning at many Zimbabwean schools, which opened this week after a prolonged closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Harare, some schools managed to open Thursday while at others a few teachers reported for work but did not teach, according to unions. The government denounced the strike as “unwarranted conduct” that is depriving children of their right to education.

Many teachers decided to stay at home to protest salaries of about 100 U.S. dollars a month. They are demanding that their pay be increased to about 500 per month.

In 2018, teachers earned the equivalent of about 540 a month but that amount has been eroded by years of inflation, currently estimated at 60 percent and the devaluation of Zimbabwe’s currency.

In response, the government has offered a 20 percent pay increase, payment of part of the teachers’ salaries in U.S. dollars, and subsidies on the purchases of cars and houses. The government also threatened to cut the salaries of those not reporting for duty.

Unions have rejected the government offer, saying the proposed pay rise is too low. Union officials also said they doubt the government will deliver on the promises of cheaper houses and duty-free importation of cars, citing the failure of previous pledges. They added that teachers cannot afford to purchase cars, even with the subsidies.