THE Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) says the national pledge is unconstitutional as it violates the rights of pupils and teachers.Adding its voice on an issue that has been challenged by some churches, human rights activists and parents, Zimta said the national pledge should have been subjected to consultation before being “forced” onto schoolchildren, who will be asked to recite it daily when schools open for the second term next week.
Zimta — the largest union for teachers — said the pledge infringes on the professional independence of teachers.
Speaking at a Press conference at Zimta’s 35th annual national conference, the association’s president Richard Gundane said as much as it was good for children to understand their history and celebrate their culture, the government was disregarding the professional independence of teachers.
He told reporters: “We’re currently debating on the issue and the question is: Is it a product of consultation or somebody just sat and came up with the pledge?
“We’re in a predicament and dilemma because the pledge begins as a prayer and Christians have said ‘no’ to that. There’s a huge reaction from the Christian community.”
He said the solution would be to revisit the pledge and consult Zimbabweans, the same way the Constitution was crafted in 2013.
Gundane said forcing the national pledge on schools was one of the ways in which the government was impinging on the professional independence of teachers.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora has, however, defended the pledge, insisting it derived most of its content from the constitution. A Harare man has approached the constitutional court seeking an order banning the pledge.
Infant pupils will recite the following pledge of allegiance: “Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies, I salute the national flag. I commit to honesty and dignity of hard work.”
Junior and secondary schools pupils will be expected to recite the pledge of allegiance saying: “Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies, I salute the national flag. United in our diversity by our common desire for freedom, justice and equality. Respecting the brave fathers and mothers who lost lives in the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles.
“We’re proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We’re proud creators and participants in our vibrant traditions and cultures. We commit to honesty and the dignity of hard work.”
Gundane said there is a huge gap between teachers’ expectations and what was obtaining on the ground because of “too much influence” by the employer.
Gundane said the association was also saddened by lack of collective bargaining in the civil service as the National Joint Negotiating Forum does not provide for this.
He castigated the government’s decision to cancel vacation and the use of inspectors in the education sector which he said was archaic and demoralising.
“There’s still concern over lack of collective bargaining. There’s no harmonisation of labour laws which is why the employer is just issuing arbitrary directives and circulars. We really need a change of policy in education and that has also to include equity and inclusivity of education as provided for in the Constitution,” said Gundane.