On average, teachers in Zimbabwe earn $400 (bond) which in ‘real terms’ is equivalent to almost P1, 100.
I am saying in real terms because the government, in its cloud cuckoo land, still maintains that the bond and the US are at par when the situation on the ground is to the contrary.
Indeed, the prevailing rate of the US dollar against the bond is 1:3.6.
Now let me try to budget this hard-earned salary of $400 bond.
Basic Groceries and toiletries: $200
Airtime: $20 (we all need to communicate right?)
Here I am assuming this teacher stays alone and has no dependents.
The truth of the matter though is that most have families, children who go to school and extended families.
So if their net income is only sufficient to pay rent and buy food, where are they expected to get money to cover all other expenses such as school fees?
‘Zvakapresa’, it’s tight, as they would say.
And by the way, I can say this budget, especially for groceries, is only valid for 24 hours as prices now change willy-nilly!
This is as a result of a number of factors, such as fuel prices going up.
I am not talking about that massive price increase which sparked riots but the subsequent increases which are silently being effected by filling stations.
This week teachers went on strike, demanding an adjustment of their salaries and better working conditions.
A strike truly justified if you ask me!
I had a chat with my sister-in-law on Tuesday as she told me she had, like many other teachers, heeded to the call to down tools.
Again, like her colleagues, getting paid in the US dollar would be a better deal as the bond quickly gets eroded.
This is a fact that we cannot run away from and which the government needs to admit.
Fuel has gone up and continues going up, the price of bread has doubled, transport fares have gone up, prices of basic commodities have gone up, yet salaries have remained stagnant.
Surely the government cannot expect people to turn a blind eye to this when they are practically offering their services for free.
So if the government is sincere about solving issues as they have said, the decision makers in this instance should be realistic and award teachers accordingly.
If President Emmerson Mnangagwa can afford to blow thousands of dollars in useless ‘thank you’ rallies, then it means there is money to spend and thus he must make sure teachers are given what they deserve.
But knowing our government, it will react with wrath to the strike and even threaten to fire the teachers like they did with the nurses when they also went on strike.
Talking of nurses, they, together with all other health workers, have started working three times a week to enable them to cope with transport challenges.
At least in this scenario somebody became realistic enough to acknowledge that salaries of health workers are just not enough for them to work normal working hours.
So one way or the other they will have to address the concerns of the teachers, so that the students, who are the main losers, don’t continue to miss lessons.