According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Zimbabwe had 139 616 teachers in 2019.
Media reports say the Zimbabwe Teachers Association which says it is the largest and most influential teachers union has 42 000 members.
The militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has 15 000 while the highly vociferous Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe says it has just over 5 000.
Who therefore represents the majority of the teachers?
At independence Zimbabwe had only one teachers’ union, ZIMTA, which was a merger of two unions one that had previously represented white teachers and another that represented back teachers. And this was the case for the next 16 years until Raymond Majongwe formed the PTUZ.
As the country’s economy teetered more unions sprung up. There are now eight teachers’ unions.
Who are they representing?
Do they really have members?
If so how many?
If not, how are they surviving?
These are questions that teachers on the ground must ask because they are the ones being represented by these unions. Which one among the eight represents them? Are they members of any?
Normally a union survives on subscriptions from members, so one should ask, can a union really survive on subscriptions from 5 000 members who are complaining that their salaries are too low?
If the unions are not surviving from subscriptions where are they getting their funding?
And why so many unions because if all were as big as ZIMTA, there would just be three or four unions, but even than that would be too many?
The answer is simple. Donors.
Teachers are very influential people in Zimbabwean society. Anyone who wants to influence Zimbabwe society, especially the rural people that constitute nearly 70 percent of the population, can easily do that through teachers.
But is this for the benefit of teachers or the donor?
Even if it is for the benefit of teachers, why fund so many unions?
Simple. For the international community it pays to have more organisations making noise. It creates a picture of chaos, a failing nation unable to grapple with day-to-day matters.
The ultimate beneficiaries are therefore the donors and trade union leaders not the teachers they claim to represent. The union leaders are not paid to improve the lot of the teachers. That is a by-product. They are paid to create chaos.
Teachers indeed have a grievance but it is now time to put children first. All others things will be sorted out. They now run the risk of alienating themselves from parents whose children have already lost a year of education if they persist that they will not go back to work.
Pafunge! Think. It ain’t illegal yet.