Zimbabwe teachers’ strike gets off slowly as reprisals feared

Most teachers in Zimbabwe turned up for work, but some were not conducting lessons in adherence with the strike, witnesses said. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019

Zimbabwe teachers’ strike gets off slowly as reprisals feared

  • Zimbabwe has more than 100,000 public sector teachers
  • Government workers are demanding wage rises and payments in US dollars to cope with soaring inflation

HARARE: Some Zimbabwean teachers stayed at home while others went slow on the job as a strike at state schools got off to a patchy start amid fears of further intimidation by security forces who cracked down hard on last month’s protests.
Zimbabwe is grappling with an economic crisis marked by cash shortages and rising prices of basic goods after President Emmerson Mnangagwa hiked fuel costs 150 percent last month.
That brought demonstrations and looting, plus a brutal response from security agents, which rights groups say left 12 people dead. Police put the figure at three.
In schools near central Harare, most teachers appeared to have turned up for work, but some were not conducting lessons in adherence with the strike, witnesses said.
In a classroom at a primary school in Harare’s Mbare township, a Reuters photographer saw one teacher eating from her lunch box in the morning while pupils sat quietly.
She and the headmistress declined to be interviewed.
“Stay home, be safe. Don’t be intimidated by police and CIOs (Central Intelligence Organization),” the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), the biggest teachers’ union, said in a circular to members.
Zimbabwe has more than 100,000 public sector teachers.
The Bulawayo-based online news site, Center for Innovation and Technology, said teachers at several schools in the country’s second biggest city did not turn up for work and parents had to collect their children.
“Some teachers are in class but there is no meaningful teaching going on,” ZIMTA president Richard Gundane said.
Government workers are demanding wage rises and payments in US dollars to cope with soaring inflation and an economic crisis that has sapped supplies of fuel and medicines.
Many Zimbabweans, who have seen purchasing power eroded despite adopting the dollar in 2009, say Mnangagwa has not delivered on pre-election pledges to kick-start growth after the exit of Robert Mugabe in 2017.
Despite their demands for better pay, other public workers declined to join teachers on strike because they are fearful of the volatile security situation and want to continue negotiations with the government.
Economic hardships have seen the government allowing nurses to work just three days a week because they do not have enough money for bus fares, the nurses’ union said on Tuesday.
The government has pleaded with teachers’ unions to give talks a chance, saying children will be prejudiced.


Greece to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to asylum, PM says

Updated 26 min 57 sec ago

Greece to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to asylum, PM says

  • The government announced plans to shut overcrowded refugee camps on islands and replace them with more restrictive holding centers
  • They want to move up to 20,000 people to the mainland by the end of the year

ATHENS: Greece said on Friday it was deploying more border guards to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to stay, the latest sign of a hardening stance against asylum seekers since a new surge in the number of arrivals. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament he had approved the hiring of 400 guards at Greece’s land border with Turkey and another 800 guards for its islands. Greece will also upgrade its sea patrolling operations, he said.
On Wednesday, the conservative government elected in July announced plans to shut overcrowded refugee camps on islands and replace them with more restrictive holding centers.
“Welcome in Greece are only those we choose. Those who are not welcomed will be returned,” Mitsotakis said. “We will permanently shut the door to illegal human traffickers, to those who want to enter although they are not entitled to asylum.”
Greece was the main gateway into the European Union for more than a million people fleeing conflict in 2015-16.
Migrant and refugee arrivals from neighboring Turkey have risen again, and more than 37,000 people are crammed into facilities on islands which operate far beyond their capacity.
The government wants to move up to 20,000 people to the mainland by the end of the year.
It has also designed a new framework to speed up the processing of asylum requests, which human rights groups have criticized as a “rushed” attempt that would impede access to a fair asylum process for refugees.