More teachers yesterday joined the countrywide strike which started on Tuesday, despite reports of widespread intimidation by State security agents in some areas.

The teachers have downed tools demanding a review of their salaries to a minimum of $1 700 a month.

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said although there was a slow start, many more teachers had now joined in.

Officials said many had stayed at home, while others had attended school as a result of intimidation, but did not teach.

“The numbers have actually increased since yesterday (Tuesday),” Majongwe said.

“More schools have joined in and our message is that if the government is really serious, they must come and talk.”

Majongwe said in some areas of Harare, people were being misled that the strike was not happening.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said Matabeleland North province was the most compliant, with an attendance of as low as 15%, while Mashonaland East was the least compliant with an attendance of 40%.

ARTUZ said the overall attendance was at 32% across all provinces.

The union said police details were, however, threatening the striking teachers.

“ARTUZ notes that the State has deployed members of the Police Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) to harass school leaders,” the rural teachers’ organisation said.

“The PISI officers are sending messages to school heads demanding statistics and threatening the same heads. One headmaster in Silobela had to offer $20 in bond notes to try to bribe teachers to come to work. ARTUZ is in possession of the messages from PISI.”

In a related matter, co-ordinator of the sub-committee on examinations, Charles Chinosengwa, said they held a meeting yesterday which sought to explore other ways in which government could incentivise teachers.

Chinosengwa, who doubles up as the organising secretary for Apex Council, said they were pushing to make sure that teachers were paid $10 for invigilation per paper and $1 for marking, up from 35 cents.

“Government said it is looking for ways to incentivise teachers and one area that we looked at is examinations. This is a follow up to the meeting that we held on Monday and today (yesterday) we met the Zimsec [Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council]. Government will have to meet the balance that is paid by Zimsec,” he said.

“We also said for teachers who are able to write books, it would be good for them because they would be able to make some extra money from that.”

Civil servants under the banner of Apex Council failed to agree on the way forward after some opposed going on strike claiming it could be hijacked by politicians.

Yesterday, Public Service minister Sekai Nzenza insisted in the National Assembly that the majority of teachers had ignored the strike call.

“Government gave a cushioning allowance of $63 million to civil servants from January to March, and now we have given them another $300 million, and the talks with the Apex Council are still on-going and we are not experiencing any problems with the negotiations,” Nzenza said.

But Chipinge East MP Mathias Matewu Mlambo (MDC Alliance) further asked her to explain why 70% of teachers in Chipinge did not turn up for duty, if the issues pertaining to teachers’ remuneration had been solved.

“The 70% is not the percentage of teachers that did not report for work. In our negotiations with teachers’ unions, it is only the Zimbabwe Teachers Association and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe that told teachers affiliated to them not to report for work,” Nzenza said.

Proportional representation MP Lynette Karenyi (MDC Alliance) said the rights of children and parents were being infringed on because school fees were paid for schoolchildren that are not learning because government was failing to resolve the salary issues with teachers.NEWSDAY