HARARE – Recent pronouncements by government to award civil servants a substantial salary increment beginning January next year come as a huge relief to parents that have been obliged to “top-up” teachers’ salaries.
If government lives up to its word, parents could begin questioning the logic and principle behind workers in the same sector being compelled to augment teachers’ remuneration.
Clearly, this is an anomaly.
Some of the civil servants earn salaries identical to or less than what teachers earn rendering continuation of such an arrangement unfair to them.
The whole idea of incentives has been discriminatory in the sense that rural school teachers are practically denied a benefit that their urban counterparts enjoy.
This informal honoraria demanded by urban teachers has tended to accentuate attitudes of snobbery between professionals separated by mere geographical location.
Teachers in rural schools can justifiably argue they deserve these benefits also although it is impracticable owing to the fact that most rural parents do not have the wherewithal to meet such demands.
Since the introduction of incentives pupils from poor families have endured the traumatic experience of being denied access to school lessons despite government issuing orders against the practice.
Put bluntly, incentives indulged parents to pay what is basically an official bribe to persuade teachers to remain in classrooms which is officially their workstations.
Government connivance gives an unhealthy impression that it has abrogated its responsibility to teachers and allowed them to tax parents.
While not advocating for a complete reversal, parents need to make financial contributions towards improvement of learning facilities, it is pertinent to suggest that funds collected by institutions could be best funnelled towards schools than staff.
Primary and Secondary Education minister, Lazarus Dokora has often emphasised cooperation between communities and school authorities as a vital ingredient in developing, refurbishing or upgrading learning institutions for learners’ benefit.
He has railed against abuse of funds generated from levies for development to other uses and directed that these funds be seen to profit institutions rather than individuals.
As teachers get better salaries starting next year like all other civil servants, it is incumbent on the Education ministry to rethink and abolish these incentives and give parents a reprieve.
The Higher and Tertiary Education ministry too ought to reconsider a pesky requirement by colleges and universities that students pay fees for each semester while they are on the mandatory industrial attachment.
Reasons colleges give to justify this seem not stake up as convincing.