TEACHERS’ unions yesterday described their nationwide strike as a huge success, with at least 80% heeding the call for industrial action, although there were reports of State security agents moving around schools, threatening to fire teachers who failed to report for duty.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu said at least 80 % of their members heeded the strike call, particularly in Matabeleland region and rural areas, although Harare had less than 40% of the educators on strike.
“The western region did very well. Bulawayo and other parts in Matabeleland region took our message very clearly. It is unfortunate that some of our members were misled by the State media and others intimidated,” he
“But, as a first day, we are glad. We know we shall pick up and more will join the strike. This is a pure labour issue and we are not being political or violent in anyway.”
Teachers last week resolved to down tools following a deadlock in salary negotiations with government, although other civil servants’ unions are still keen on pursuing dialogue with their employer.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said although some of their members were picked up by the police for questioning, the number of teachers who went on strike was high.
“A few that turned up had been fooled by (Education minister) Prof (Paul) Mavima’s outright lies on ZBC-TV last (Monday) night and today (Tuesday), to the effect that a new agreement has been reached between ministry officials and teachers to call off the strike,” he said.
“So, we look forward to an intensification of industrial action tomorrow (today), with the strike action increasing from today’s 75% to more than 90% teachers’ participation.”
Zhou alleged there have been increased visits by security forces, allegedly from the President’s Office to schools.
“Youths and other political party functionaries are also visiting schools and demanding names of teachers absent from schools. We remind such rogue elements that schools are institutions of teaching and learning,” Zhou said.
“At any rate, no amount of threats or brutality will end the industrial action, but sober engagement of union leaders by government. We also remind school heads that they have signed the Official Secrecy Act and are not allowed to release any information to anyone on the participation of teachers in the industrial action except Ministry of Education officials.”
In Bulawayo, pupils could be seen going back home as early as 8:15am as teachers downed tools and those transported to schools by hired kombis said they found the classrooms locked, with no teachers on sight.
Bulawayo’s acting provincial education director Olicah Kaira accused some parents who withdrew their children from school of causing confusion.
Teachers’ unions in Mashonaland East said the job action was successful, as their members heeded calls for the strike.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe spokesperson Macdonald Kondo said their survey noted that about 60% of teachers in Mashonaland East did not report for duty.
In Manicaland and Mashonaland West provinces, it was the same story as teachers heeded calls by their representatives to go on strike, defying threats and intimidation by security agents.