AT least 75% of Zimbabwean teachers are suffering from stress-related challenges owing to poor salaries and working conditions, according to preliminary research findings by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
The findings further show that all teachers have mentally resigned their jobs although they physically remain at their workplaces.
PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said the survey was conducted on a national level through zonal, district and provincial discussions with several school representatives.
“Due to stress-related challenges, cases of conflict in schools have escalated, with 75% of teachers suffering from stress-related challenges leading to an increase in alcoholism and suicide cases,” Zhou said.
“There is need for urgent intervention by the government in order to protect the education system from total collapse and degeneration.
“Such a reprieve must ensure that teachers are paid a living wage as professionals. It is criminal to entrust the education system to angry, miserable and poorly-paid teachers.”
Teachers have been demanding the restoration of their pre-October 2018 salary of US$540 to make ends meet.
According to the labour unions, teachers are currently earning below $50 000 and an additional US$200 in allowances.
“The level of underpayment of teachers in Zimbabwe has reached an unprecedented scale. Teachers have fallen from grace to grass with monotonous regularity under the so-called new dispensation,” Zhou said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said there was a brewing mental health crisis among educators.
“Our schools are being manned by people who should be at rehabilitation centres. The surge in violence and drug abuse in schools is evidence of a deep-rooted mental health crisis,” he said.
“Teachers have been on sick leave from Monday to Wednesday nursing stress after the payday insult of February 17.”
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro, however, dismissed the claims as meant to cause alarm.
“They should not be sensational. Besides, they are not medical doctors, so how did they diagnose that and how did they get the statistics?” Ndoro queried when contacted for comment.
“They should not cause alarm and pandemonium in the education sector. We have close to 100% of our teachers in schools right now coming to school every day. Our statistics show that teachers are committed to delivering quality education .What they are talking about is the wisp of their imagination.”
Last year, the Education ministry suspended striking teachers for three months without pay in a wage dispute.
The pay dispute goes back to October 2018, when government stopped paying teachers in United States dollars, switching to the reintroduced Zimbabwean dollar.
The Zimbabwe dollar has been on a free-fall, pushing many workers in the private and public sectors into deep poverty.