THE newly-formed Teachers for Economic Development (ED) union is reportedly storming schools countrywide to mobilise support, paralysing learning at some institutions.
It is also holding midweek workshops at schools, with some said to have already taken place at learning institutions in Zvishavane, Bulawayo and Marondera in recent days.
The group, seen as sympathetic to the administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is popularly known as ED, was given the nod by government to “roll out its economic development” programmes in all schools where hundreds of teachers are reportedly abandoning classes to attend the workshops to avoid victimisation.
Schools are allegedly being forced to use own funds to cater for the travel and subsistence expenses of the organisers.
In a letter dated September 20, 2022, Teachers for ED secretary-general Takaiteyi Masikati sought permission from government to “roll out its economic development programme”.
Teachers for ED got government approval in a letter dated September 22, 2022, written by acting Primary and Secondary Education secretary Kwadzanai Nyanungo.
“Your communication dated September 2022, is hereby acknowledged,” Nyanungo wrote.
“Permission is granted for the roll out of the economic development programme in schools, on the understanding that teacher participation in your proposed activities is in the spirit of voluntary teacher building capacity programme, with due care that there is no disruption to planned teaching and learning process in schools.”
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro defended the mid-week workshops being conducted by the Teachers for ED union saying they were “enriching” the education sector.
“Teachers for Economic Development is a full-fledged teachers’ union with its own resources generated from its economic development projects; so I ask, why would a vehicle with a full tank of fuel go to a fuel station?” Ndoro said, adding that the workshops actually enriched the value of education.
Teachers’ unions are, however, concerned about selective treatment by government of the Teachers for ED grouping.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said: “Definitely if any other teachers union had mobilised teachers for workshops during the week, government would not have approved. Under the Teachers for ED programme, teachers are being promised access to government loans, promotions, mining rights, among others, which should be accessible to any teacher. We do not have a problem with Teachers for Ed mobilising members, but we have a problem when it is given preferential treatment by government which should be impartial. “
Zimbabwe Teachers Association secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said, while teachers should join a union of their choice, and that Teachers for ED was not a labour union, but an economic empowerment organisation.
Zimbabwe National Teachers Union chief executive officer Manuel Nyawo said: “The Teachers for ED formation is a well calculated plan to weaken the collective bargaining power of unions.”
He said it was a well-orchestrated way to suppress effective collective bargaining.