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School's out

January 12, 2012

Teachers at government schools in Zimbabwe are striking for more pay. They say their present monthly salary is too low for them to buy enough food.

A slate with the alphabet written on it, held by two black hands
School's out for now in ZimbabweImage: picture-alliance/Ton Koene

Tuesday should have been the first school day in 2012 in Zimbabwe, but classes were cancelled in government schools across the country as teachers went on strike.

It was the same story on Wednesday and it was estimated that more than half of the teachers in the capital, Harare, stayed away from work.

Teachers in Zimbabwe earn on average around $300 (236 euros) per month. They are demanding that their salaries be increased to around $540, saying they will otherwise live in poverty and cannot afford to buy enough food.

In a bid to settle the dispute, the government called a meeting on Wednesday with teachers' representatives. The talks went on for four hours, but failed to produce a breakthrough.

Tendai Chikoore, the President of the Zimbabwe Teachers' Assocation, was downbeat in his assessment. "There has not been as much progress as we anticipated. We know the money is there, it is a question of priorities," he said. He warned that if there was no satisfactory response to the teachers' demands, they would take industrial action which could include all government workers.

Not present at the meeting was the Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe, Raymond Majongwe. He told Deutsche Welle why he thought there was little point in meeting with Labor Minister Lucia Matibenga.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti
Finance Minister Biti says there's no money to give teachers a pay riseImage: AP

"This is a political problem. It needs nothing short of a political resolution," he said. "We want no one other than the prime minister and president and the minister of finance. Nobody other than Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Biti should intervene. We do not need to meet anyone else who might not help our situation."

Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti has repeatedly said that the government's wage bill is too large to give civil servants a pay rise. But workers argue that the government gives priority to other issues, citing the purchase of state-of-the-art vehicles for ministers and senior government officials.

The education sector in Zimbabwe was once the pride of the nation and was held up as an example for other developing nations. But, like other sectors, schooling has suffered as a result of Zimbabwe's economic decline over the past decade.

Author: Columbus Mavhunga, Harare / sh
Editor: Mark Caldwell / rm

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