AFTER 23 years as a government school teacher in Zimbabwe, upon retirement, a 50-year-old woman got a severance package of R2 100 (ZW$28 000) in December last year.
Had she retired in 2015, she would have been paid in United States dollars, something that many in her position wish they had done.
“It’s as if I was wasting my life as a teacher. I should have resigned during the US dollar era and I would have got a decent figure, not these peanuts,” she said.
In Zimbabwe, the retirement age is 65.
The teacher says she took early retirement because she wants to go to the United Kingdom.
“I have enrolled for a nurse aid course. After that, I will apply for a job as a caregiver in old people’s homes in the United Kingdom. Some who I taught with have done it and through links, we are leaving just like that,” she said.
With about 15 or so years left in her working life, she said she needed just five years abroad.
Hoping the situation changes, she might then return home to Zimbabwe.
“If I work for a year, I will likely make more than I ever made in 23 years working as a teacher in Zimbabwe. I really love teaching, it’s my calling, but my family can’t eat that. If by any chance things change, perhaps under a new government and a solid economy where one can save, I might come back,” she said.
The Zimbabwean government accuses teachers of being “agents of regime change” alongside nurses and doctors, because they are at the forefront of industrial action for better working conditions and remuneration.
A group of 16 teachers from the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Association Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) spent their weekend behind bars.
They were arrested for staging a peaceful demonstration at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) offices in Harare.
Their main grievance is poor salaries and they are demanding to be paid a basic salary equivalent to R10 000.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on Monday secured their bail, which was set at R400 (ZW$5 000) a sizable fraction of a teacher’s basic salary of just over R1 000 (ZW$15 000).
Most teachers who left the country to pursue the profession elsewhere used to be absorbed by the education systems of Namibia, Botswana, and mostly South Africa.
With SA tightening its immigration laws, many fear that they might come back home to suffer.
Hence, most have started applying for the SA Educators’ Council certificate.
“The Educators’ Council certificate will enable me to stay on after the expiry of my special exemption permit in December this year. If I fail to get the certificate it might be the end of my career in SA,” said Sifiso Ncube, a mathematics teacher based in SA.
Zimbabwe has an estimated 136 000 teachers, with a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:70, resulting in a shortage of 10 000 teachers according to finance minister Professor Mthuli Ncube.