Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) is a Trade Union working for the improvement of the working conditions of rural teachers as well as the right to education in rural areas of Zimbabwe. Founded in 2009 in reponse to extremely poor wages and working conditions of rural teachers, the union now counts about 35,000 members and operates in 10 provinces, widening its reach to include non rural teachers.
Since the beginning of the Zimbabwe crisis and the percieved waning of support for the ruling ZANU-PF party, groups such as professional unions, HRDs and civil society in general have been targeted as scape goats for the protracted crisis when they became vocal about issues such as poor governance, corruption and the deterioration in human rights. ARTUZ has worked relentlessly over the past 14 years to improve the working conditions of teachers, and to defend and ensure equal access to education. Their members have been arrested, and attacked for their work.
ARTUZ has pushed for the adoption of the Education Equalization Fund, which would support young girls and pregnant girls in receiving an education. The union also developed and distributed the Remote Teaching Toolkit, which trained 1800 teachers on remote teaching techniques during the pandemic.
In 2015, ARTUZ launched the Safe Schools campaign to prevent schools from being used as political means – students and teachers were forced to attend political rallies. A Masvingo High Court judge delivered a ruling barring Zimbabwe’s political parties from forcing or asking students and teachers to attend its rallies. The political parties were also barred from using school premises and buses for political activities. The ruling followed an urgent High Court application by ARTUZ.
In 2018, the union sued the electoral commission for denying teachers the right to vote during elections. In the same year, ARTUZ organized a peaceful march to demand the restoration of salaries to the pre-October 2018 salaries of about $540 USD.
In the past 12 months the Union handled 132 cases of teachers who were forcibly transferred for being members of the Union. 220 members have been arrested, detained and beaten up by state security forces and are facing trumped up charges at the workplace for their human rights work.
Most recently, in January 2022, 16 teachers who were part of a group of peaceful protestors were beaten, arrested and incarcerated. They were only released on bail on Monday 17 January 2022. The teachers were protesting for a living wage. They were charged with participating in a gathering with intention to cause public violence.
Despite the pushback and targeting of the Union, ARTUZ continues to call for justice. They are now widely recognized and lauded as a key group for labour issues in general.