Coltart attacks teachers’ salaries slashing proposal

Former Education minister David Coltart has condemned plans by government to slash teachers’ salaries in schools with a pass rate below 50%.

by NQOBILE BHEBHE

Coltart said the policy measure was “unfair and unjust” and may lead to a further exodus of teachers to foreign lands.

Presenting his 2016 National Budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said “all schools registering below 50% pass rate at Grade 7 and ‘O’ Level will have their teachers foregoing their April, August and December salaries”.

“This is anticipated to cut the wage bill by 70% during school holidays. From January 1, 2017, Mr Speaker Sir, I further propose to have teachers remunerated on a pro rata [proportional] basis according to the pass rate at their respective schools,” he said then.

“Recognition is made that some teachers will be on zero salary and will thus survive on allowance.”

In a statement to Southern Eye, Coltart said: “I am appalled by Chinamasa’s policy statement regarding cutting teachers’ salaries in schools which achieve a pass rate below 50%.

“While a performance-linked reward system can be a considerable inducement in any sector, this arrangement is fundamentally unfair and unjust. First, one cannot lump all teachers in a school together and penalise everyone.

Lawyer and former Education minister David Coltart

“Inevitably, in many schools, there are good, hard-working teachers and bad, lazy teachers. The poor performance of the bad teachers may bring the overall pass rate down, but what Chinamasa’s scheme does is punish the good teachers as well.

“Second, there is a massive difference between the performance of relatively wealthy urban schools and poor rural schools. Children in the former can supplement their education by taking extra lessons; reading at better stocked libraries and the like.”

Coltart said Chinamasa should seriously reconsider the precedent he was setting.

“If the police do not solve crimes, or bring down the incidence of corruption in Zimbabwe, are they going to lose their salaries too? In virtually every single government ministry or department, there are civil servants who do not perform as they should. The question is: Why has the minister decided to pick on teachers, the vast majority of whom are dedicated professionals who work for the betterment of our children, for minimal reward?”

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president, Takavafira Zhou, said the move was likely to trigger a workers’ revolt.

“This is total madness, daylight hallucination coming from clueless people masquerading as educationists. These planned measures are impossible to implement as there are many variables affecting pass rates,” he said.

“People don’t want to accept that there are brilliant students and dull ones, who have poor backgrounds and schools which only enrol the so-called cream at higher education.

“As teacher unions, we will resist such moves. This is coming from a regime that is anti-education, whose focus is to save meagre resources.”

Zhou said such policies were crafted by people who were bent on producing “academic robots”.

On talk that the move will spike examination leakages, he said: “That’s where it is leading to. Some headmasters might be tempted to do just that to boost pass rates.

“However, more importantly, this government is inciting teachers to revolt and also drive them out of the profession.”

A number of schools in rural areas record pass rates as low as 0%, as they are mostly manned by unqualified, poorly resourced and disgruntled teachers.

In 2014, 15 primary schools in Matabeleland South province recorded 0%Grade Seven pass rate.

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