THE government’s decision to put in place the Teaching Profession Council (TPC) Bill which seeks to, among other things, have trained teachers register to practice and acquire an annually renewable teaching practicing certificate could not have come at any better time.
We believe there is nothing new about this because nearly all professions, including doctors, nurses and journalists, among others, undergo the same process.
However, it is hoped that by introducing the TPC Bill government is not seeking to ride roughshod over the poorly remunerated teachers and completely ignore their opinions, rights, feelings or taking away the right to air their grievances through industrial action.
Teaching, just like medicine, is a sensitive profession in that it has to do with the training of young people, who should be moulded into responsible citizens. For many years, there have been widespread concern over the declining levels of professionalism among poorly-paid teachers, and clearly these are the things that the new TPC Bill, once it becomes law, should deal with.
Indeed, there is a lot of suspicion about government’s intentions regarding the TPC Bill, especially following teachers’ sustained demands for salary increments and improved working conditions. Naturally, teachers trade unions will oppose this, given that it seeks to bar those who would not have practiced for some time. Besides, some in the unions are financially cushioned well above their membership and that’s a problem. If the unions want to remain relevant they should make valuable input into the Bill now. Mobilising against this Bill may not work after all.
But government should be sincere that, inasmuch as the TPC Bill should look into matters of conduct and professionalism, it should also look into issues of teacher remuneration and conditions of service — and these are paramount.
It would be tragic if government uses this Bill to curtail teachers’ efforts to fight for their rights, given their immense contribution to national development. Another critical thing is to ensure the buy-in of teachers regarding the council. Otherwise, this might end up as a toxic piece of legislation that does little to engender trust and mutual co-operation between teachers and government.
At face value, the Bill has a number of positive provisions, such as teacher registration and regulation of their professional conduct, developing, maintaining and improving appropriate standards of qualification in the profession as well as continuing professional development. Developing, promoting and enforcing international comparable teaching profession practice standards, which is also provided for in the Bill, will go a long way in improving the quality of education in Zimbabwe and help us keep abreast with international developments in the teaching field.
A key issue, which we believe is a plus, is that the TPC will also investigate allegations of professional misconduct on teachers and impose sanctions as may be necessary. In the past, there have been reports that teachers who breached their professional conduct would simply be transferred to a different school without the appropriate sanctions being imposed on them.
Teaching is an elite profession, and there is great need to protect the teacher and give them their position in the sun.