By Regerai Marwezu
MASVINGO - The Zimbabwean government is re-engaging all teachers who were dismissed from the civil service as it seeks to plug huge gaps created by massive resignations by disgruntled teachers over the past few years.
Teachers who were dismissed for various crimes such as rape and fraud have been advised to reapply amid reports that at least 10 000 teaching posts which were advertised since January had not been taken up.
In a circular to regional directors for education, Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere said all teachers who were dismissed for various reasons were now free to rejoin the profession.
"Please be advised that due to the current shortage of experienced teachers you are now free to re-engage all teaching staff who had been dismissed from the civil service for whichever reason.
"Only those who were dismissed due to ill-health and mental instability cannot be rehired. Please ensure that all school heads are informed about this and the recruitment exercise should start as soon as possible," said Chigwedere in the circular.
The latest about-turn by President Robert Mugabe's cash-strapped government comes amid reports that thousands of teachers had quit the profession over the past three years in protest over poor pay and working conditions.
Chigwedere confirmed that his ministry was desperately seeking to fill the vacant teaching posts.
"It is true that we need about 10 000 teachers to fill the gap left by those who retired and others who left the profession.
"We have since advised all our regional directors to hunt for those teachers who were dismissed for various reasons except for those with mental problems," said Chigwedere.
Deputy Education Minister Titus Maluleke said although some teachers had resigned, the media was exaggerating the numbers.
"We know we have a shortage of experienced staff but sometimes the media exaggerates the numbers," said Maluleke.
Teachers are among the lowest paid civil servants in Zimbabwe with an average teacher earning just about Z$1.8 million a month after last month's salary increment.
But despite the salary increment, teachers continue to resign en masse arguing that they can no longer make ends meet in Zimbabwe's hyper-inflationary environment.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic crisis which has seen inflation shoot to more 4 500 percent, the highest in the world. The economic recession has virtually pauperised all workers with most workers saying they can hardly make ends meet.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and major western governments blame the economic crisis on mismanagement by Mugabe in power over the past 27 years.