AT LEAST 70 000 trained teachers fled Zimbabwe to neighbouring countries due to political violence that rocked the country between 2000-2008 resulting in permanent closure of about 82% of farm schools, a think-tank has said.
Report by Veneranda Langa
According to a research by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), most of the teachers who fled the country’s political upheavals were now based in neighbouring South Africa.
The report – titled Fragility And Education In Zimbabwe: Assessing The Impact Of Violence On Education by Lloyd Pswarayi and Tony Reeler – showed that the education sector was under siege as violence was rearing its ugly head again ahead of possible elections sometime next year.
“The reasons for the attacks, it has been established, have been politically motivated, and research has revealed that violence is State-sponsored, or at least State-condoned. Hence children not only had their education disrupted, but also experienced politically-motivated intimidation and witnessed political violence. However, violence in schools and against teachers was not confined to commercial farms, but was widespread,” the RAU report said.
“Since 2000, Zimbabwe has lost nearly 70 000 trained teachers mainly to neighbouring South Africa; the reasons were associated with the state of the economy, but politically-motivated violence against teachers was also an important factor.”
As a result, Zimbabwe was now among 31 countries in the world – including Iraq, Palestine, Ivory Coast, and Burma/Myanmar – where attacks on educators had been documented.
“Many commercial farms had primary schools for the children of their workforces, and these schools (and especially their teachers) became foci for political violence and intimidation. One study estimated that 82% of the schools on farms had been closed or downsized.”
The report also claimed that three-quarters of farm workers and schoolchildren were forced to attend political meetings.
Teachers were targeted because they were perceived to be educated and influential members of local communities.
Their involvement as polling officers during elections was also cited as another factor that contributed to their victimisation.
Education minister David Coltart has repeatedly urged political parties to stop conducting rallies at schools to safeguard teachers.