By Nqaba Matshazi
WHILE teachers plotted a strike last week, their former colleague, Jonathan Mangwiro was blazing the trail in South Africa, where television channel, eTV has described him as a South African hero for his contribution to education in that country.
The popular station runs a mini documentary, where it chronicles the achievements of South Africans in essential services like health, education and security.
For the past few weeks, eTV has been featuring Mangwiro, who has been somewhat a shining light at Khanyolwethu School in the Western Cape, South Africa.
“I am the most popular foreigner in the community,” he said proudly. “I am above the moon, this is a breakthrough; it’s an achievement for me.”
Mangwiro, who left Zimbabwe in 2006, said he had been accepted by the community he lived in because of the quality of work he was doing and they were not worried that he was a foreigner.
The former Karoi High School teacher has since introduced a journalism project at the school, while he plans to source computers before year-end.
In the eTV documentary, the head teacher and parents praised the Zimbabwean teacher, for the sterling work he has done since he was recruited and for literally bringing the shine to a school whose name means “our light”.
But while Mangwiro saunters and dances on South African television, Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) executive director, Sifiso Ndlovu says teachers are being pushed out of the country, because their talent was not being recognised and rewarded adequately.
“It is unfortunate that our system is very wasteful, it does not realise such talent and reward it,” he said. “We should be creating a conducive environment for educators, but instead they are being pushed out.”
The Zimta boss said the government should find a way of getting teachers and other professionals back into the country, saying even if it was just to do workshops and share experiences.
Ndlovu felt that the government was contemptuous of teachers, as the legislators were spending resources on buying luxury items for themselves instead of prioritising the teachers’ welfare.
Education minister, David Coltart said the issue of teacher remuneration was one of his biggest frustrations and unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about it.
“Teachers are leaving because they get at least double in South Africa what they get here and we cannot compete, the general working conditions are better there,” he said.
Coltart said while earnings were the principal motivator, some teachers, particularly rural ones, had been forced out because of political intimidation.
“If you realise, most rural teachers left around 2007 and that is when political intimidation and violence were on the rise in those areas,” the minister explained.
He said he understood teachers’ frustrations over the salaries, but his hands were also tied.
“Our problem is we have difficulty in keeping teachers on board, the budget is extremely tight and we cannot come up with incentives for teachers,” he explained.
The government, Coltart said, hoped to come up with extra incentives for rural teachers, as there had been a serious brain-drain in those areas.
He said in future another incentive for Maths, Science and English teachers was on the cards.
This bonus was first mooted in 2006 but was put on hold, as the country’s political and economic woes worsened.