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Govt hunts mentally challenged teachers

by Staff reporter
19 Jun 2021 at 15:04hrs | Views
GOVERNMENT has begun compiling names of teachers suffering from depression and other mental health conditions in a clear admission that the country's socio-economic challenges are taking a toll on educators.

However, the exercise has drawn an angry reaction from teacher unions, which are arguing that this is a waste of time as long as the needs of teachers, particularly the demand for United States dollar-denominated salaries.

Teachers used to earn about US$520 pre-October 2018 but also equivalent in bond notes, a parallel currency introduced in 2016 to solve physical cash challenges and officially pegged to the US dollar. In reality, the bond note was much less as it kept depreciating.

The introduction of Zimbabwean dollar in 2019 by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and associated currency reforms did not help matters. Already, teachers have vowed not to return to class when schools re-open for the second term on 28 June until the salary issue is addressed.

In a memo to district schools inspectors dated 11 June, Matabeleland South Primary and Secondary Education officials requested the submission of names of teachers "exhibiting mental problems" in the province no later than 16 June.

"May you kindly submit to the Discipline office a list of all teachers exhibiting mental problems and the challenges they are presenting to learning and teaching. May this information reach this office no later than the16th June 2021," acting provincial Primary and Secondary Education ministry provincial director one G. Mathuthu wrote.

Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Toungana Ndoro said this is a national exercise to ensure teachers with mental challenges are attended to under the ministry's Learner Welfare, Psychological Services and Special Needs division.

"As a ministry, we are taking note of any of our staff members that may have mental health concerns and we are moving towards having them attended to professionally so that we deliver our mandate of quality and wholesome provision of education for all Zimbabweans," Ndoro said on Wednesday.

"Looking after mental health preserves our teachers' ability to enjoy life. Conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect mental health and disrupt a teacher's routine."

The Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and Amalgamated Rural Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), however, argued that the government is simply addressing symptoms and not the real problems facing teachers.

"The slave drivers (government officials) are trying to deal with one of the symptoms of the incapacitation crisis, mental health. We insist that the only way out of this crisis is to pay teachers a living wage. Teachers should receive the pre-October 2018 salaries, a minimum of US$520," Artuz president Obert Masaraure said.

According to Masaraure, a survey conducted by Artuz in January revealed that one in five teachers were suffering from one case of mental health to the other.

PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe added: "This is unprecedented because the question that one must be asking themselves is 'why is it that all of a sudden somebody has noted that we have several teachers who are psychologically unbalanced now?'

"Government needs to address the real challenges, not to go about asking who is mentally unstable ‘so that you do what with them?' We expect the Mnangagwa government not to boast about surpluses, but to make sure that the surplus goes into the hands, mouths and pockets of the teachers."

Source - NewsHawks

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