Felex Share Harare Bureau
No teacher will go on vacation leave until the government is in a position to pay relief teachers who replace them for the three months they will be away, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira has said.
This comes amid indications that the government intends to increase the number of years a teacher would be eligible to go on vacation leave.
The eligibility period for vacation leave for teachers is seven years.
The government last week recalled 2,000 teachers who were supposed to be on leave this term, a development which irked the educators’ representatives.
In recalling the teachers, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education did not proffer any reasons, choosing only to say “schools will be visited by the Civil Service Commission inspectorate soon to ensure that all such members have assumed duty.”
Minister Mupfumira, who superintends over the CSC, yesterday said the government could not afford relief teachers and as such, vacation leave had been deferred until the situation normalised.
She said the rest of the civil service, outside the education sector, were not bringing any financial burden to the government if they went on vacation leave because they were not replaced.
“Whenever a teacher goes on vacation leave, a relief teacher has to be engaged on full salary and allowances for the duration of the vacation leave, which is an added cost to the fiscus,” she said.
“Meanwhile, as this happens the government continues to pay full salary and allowances to their members on vacation leave. Given such circumstances, review of the prevailing situation was inevitable. If an accountant in government goes on vacation leave, he or she is’t replaced and it has no monetary effect to the employer.”
Engaging the relief teachers would have seen the government parting with a $2,565 million for the three months the substantive teachers would be on leave.
Teachers accrue one day for every 20 days worked, meaning in one year they accrue 18 days and at that rate they need seven years to accrue 126 days.
The rest of the civil servants accrue one day for every 12 days worked, including weekends meaning, for one year worked, they accrue 30 days for vacation leave.
Minister Mupfumira added: “We’re saying we’ve deferred the vacation leave until our ability to pay improves. This term 2,000 teachers wanted to go on leave and the same number would have been engaged as replacements and this means an extra cost which we can’t afford at the moment. This issue will be revisited when the situation improves, but for now, they can’t go on vacation leave. We can’t pay two teachers per class.”
The development has prompted the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) to approach the Labour Court, arguing it was a violation of their labour rights.
Minister Mupfumira said the government was “simply doing what is within our means” and such austerity measures were needed to rationalise the civil service.
She said Zimbabwe was the only country in the Southern region which allowed teachers to go on vacation leave for a whole term.
“It’s worth noting that after a comparative study of similar situations in the region, it was established that other countries had scrapped such vacation leave completely and teachers now go on vacation leave just like any other civil servant,” she said.
“This policy position shouldn’t be taken as denial of leave but an adjustment that will enable the education sector as a whole to continue enjoying the benefit in a manner that is sustainable.”
She said the vacation leave policy for the education sector was inherited from the colonial era. “The period originally has been set at three months to enable the expatriate teachers to have adequate time to travel to their respective countries. This was manageable because they were in the minority. At independence, the privilege was extended to the majority. Extending the privilege to all had financial implications that were not envisaged at the time.”