Fearful Zim teachers on go-slow

Zimbabwean flag.
Zimbabwean flag.
Image: Natanael Alfredo Nemanita Ginting

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 January’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% 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 school in Harare’s Mbare township, a Reuters photographer saw one teacher eating her lunch while her young 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 Organisation],” the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association, the biggest teachers’ union, said in a circular to members.

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 and a crisis that has sapped supplies of fuel and medicines.

Many people, who have seen their purchasing power eroded despite the government adopting the dollar in 2009, say Mnangagwa has not delivered on pre-election pledges to kickstart growth after Robert Mugabe’s exit in 2017.